Networking For The Introvert
What does networking mean to you? What does the word ‘networking’ conjure up in your mind?
Of course, we all have our own ideas of what networking is but essentially, we’d probably agree that networking means to meet others with a shared interest, often with the aim of learning and sharing ideas.
If you Google ‘networking events’ in your region, you’ll find lots of opportunities covering a range of sectors, businesses, interests, hobbies, agendas, etc. The list is endless. There are different ways that networking takes place; we all know that social media offers numerous opportunities to network with other professionals, with sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook making it easy to connect with people across the globe at the click of a button.
Networking can bring you into contact with people who can help further your personal and professional development but for some, the idea of networking can throw up real challenges and concerns. For introverts and people who find it difficult to meet new people, networking can conjure up fears of having to speak to lots of people and worries around what to say, never mind the fact that it can just seem like hard work!
If this resonates with you, know that with a little insight into your needs and some practice, networking can be a whole lot better!
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator gives great insight into what it means to be an introvert; it may surprise you to learn that being shy usually has little to do with being an introvert, just as being loud doesn’t mean a person’s an extrovert. Introverted people turn inward for stimulation and the renewal of energy, as opposed to extroverts who draw their energy from external sources. Introverts generally:
- Feel exhausted when having to attend lengthy meetings, whereby they need to communicate with others
- Find working in large groups tiring so prefer to work alone, or in a small group
- Need time alone to recharge their batteries
- Are highly sensitive, so think and feel very deeply
- Are reflective and spend time focusing on their thoughts and feelings
WORKING IN ALIGNMENT
By better understanding and honouring your needs, you can work in a way which is aligned with your personality style, helping you to feel more comfortable and relaxed in situations, such as networking. Try these steps to make networking a breeze:
1. Be selective when choosing which events to attend
Is the subject one which genuinely appeals to you and is an area in which you feel comfortable discussing with others? If not, try to find an event which is a more natural fit for you. This will help you to feel more at ease. If you really need to attend such an event, try to find out names of a few people who will be attending, if possible. This way, when you arrive at the event, you can look out for these contacts, almost like ‘a familiar face’.
2. Don’t put pressure on yourself to ‘work the room’
Less is more here. Rather than attempting to meet lots of people, which can feel overwhelming, make it your mission to introduce yourself to 2 or 3 people you don’t know.
3. Feel free to listen more than you speak
You don’t need to dazzle anyone with a pre-prepared script – play to your strengths. Once you’ve introduced yourself, and shared basic info about yourself with your new comrades, ask them a few questions about themselves and their work. Most peoples’ favourite topic is themself so show a genuine interest and ask open questions to find out more.
4. Take contact details of those you connect with…
…and follow up with an email, soon after the event. Be yourself and express your pleasure at connecting. If you think the person may be a potential link for your next career move, or may be a valuable contact, why not offer to do lunch?
5. Be authentic
Don’t feel as though you need to portray yourself as something you’re not – it’ll soon show anyway! You are wonderfully made so don’t be afraid to show your true personality, quirks and the things that make you, you.