For introverts, networking doesn’t always come naturally. In fact, it can be firmly outside your comfort zone! Regardless, networking remains an important part of your career – after all, a large percentage of job opportunities are created through contacts and connections. However, networking events are generally designed for a particular personality – the type of people that thrive off a room full of strangers and initiating conversations left, right and centre.
Whilst it’s true that being seen is a natural part of networking events, that doesn’t mean you need to be the centre of attention! If you are an introvert, there’s no point approaching it like an extrovert would. Not all introverts are shy, but they do tend to be more drained by social interactions that extroverts are. We know it’s easier said than done, but try to relax, plan ahead and let people see you for who you actually are.
So, if the very idea of networking makes you want to turn around and run in the opposite direction, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite networking tips for introverts to help you gain the confidence you need.
One of the key differences between introverts and extroverts is that introverts like to think things through before talking about them, whereas extroverts often like to talk about things in order to think them through. This means that the more an introvert can prepare, the more comfortable they will be in a situation. Knowing details such as topics and the people they may potentially encounter, and preparing for those conversations, will going a long way towards easing any nerves.
Let’s face it – many people love talking about themselves, their work and hobbies. Come prepared with ice breakers that will spur interesting conversations and help alleviate some of the pressure you may feel. For example, if you know the business that someone is representing, maybe congratulate them on a recent development. Who doesn’t like receiving praise?
Think about what you want to share about yourself too. It’s tempting for introverts to rely on other people to carry the conversation for them – but remember, a one-sided discussion is no discussion at all.
Don’t psych yourself out with unrealistic expectations. Maybe you’ve set a mental goal to meet up with twenty new contacts; however, when you get there you realise that the event is too short or some of the people you wanted to connect with are unavailable. Try not to fixate on numbers – you may not be able to impress everyone in attendance, but one quality connection is always better than 20 superficial ones.
Bring a Colleague or Friend
Networking at events is an important part of any business, but you don’t always have to go it alone. It can be intimidating to find yourself suddenly thrown into a sea of new faces and potential connections, so having at least one person there that you know can make a world of difference.
Take Small Steps
There’s no need to force yourself into situations where you feel completely out of your depth – even small steps can make a big difference to your overall confidence level. Getting outside of your comfort zone can be tough when you don’t feel confident – but don’t worry, it won’t always be that way. With practice, networking will soon become more comfortable!
You have opportunities every day at work to keep flexing those networking muscles. At least once a week, try walking around and socialising with colleagues during a break. Pretty soon, you’ll be as confident as they come.
At the end of the day, a business is made up of all kinds of people, and introverts are just as valuable as other personality types. However, when it comes to networking, it’s important not to let your fears get the better of you. Stay prepared, seek support where necessary and always make sure your goals are attainable, and before you know it, you’ll be networking like a pro.
Do you have any more networking tips for introverts, or your own experiences to share? We’d love to hear from you.