How to Network When You’re an Introvert
In social situations or large gatherings do you evade talking to people, avoid eye contact or tend to text people just to look busy? Would you rather go to the dentist than attend a work-related networking event? If you’re an introvert, you can probably relate.
Small talk in networking environments is tough for anyone, but extroverts, energized by being around people, tend to flourish more than introverts in these situations. For the introvert, who often needs some solitude and time to digest, networking doesn’t always come across looking so effortless. And it doesn’t help that there are sometimes social stigmas or misconceptions attached to being introverted which aren’t necessarily true.
Yet some statistics suggest one-third to one-half of us are introverts. That being the case, when faced with a networking situation, you are probably far from alone.
Here are five networking tips for introverts.
1. Look for smaller settings. If networking is too intimidating, see if you can avoid the big shindigs. Start small by looking for more intimate networking events or ones in settings where you’d feel more comfortable. You can even start online on social media just to practice asking questions and/or simply get the hang of reaching out to meet new people.
2. Bring someone with you. Ask a colleague or other person you know to come along with you to events that seem too intimidating. He or she may even make the first move to meet new connections, allowing you to get an introduction and a chance to ease in on the conversation. Plus, having a person you know come along will give you someone to talk to or sit with during any awkward times.
3. Make the first move. As an introvert, it’s often hard to make the first move. If you see someone sitting alone, chances are he or she is probably feeling a lot like you are at the moment. Approach the person and start a conversation. It’ll be easier to talk to someone one-on-one and is an appealing alternative to an attempt to jump in on the ever-intimidating group discussions.
4. Let your personal qualities drive you. Remember, being an introvert is not a bad thing! There are many wonderful qualities introverts possess that can be really helpful on the networking circuit. Introverts are often good listeners and are interested in others; observant of their surroundings; don’t need to be in the limelight; are reflective and less likely to make social gaffes; and work well in close relationships. However, sometimes introverts can appear aloof to people who don’t know them. Be careful, you don’t want to inadvertently come off looking as if you have a superiority complex or are antisocial. Instead, lean on the above qualities that will make you shine.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you do strike up a conversation with someone, try to ask general questions to show interest in who a person is and what he or she does. Memorize a list of standard questions to use as conversation starters and ask them! The easy part comes next because all you have to do is sit back and listen. Be prepared though: Chances are you’ll be asked questions too. Consider what you want to share about yourself ahead of time so you don’t get stuck in an awkward moment. Introverts often find it hard to talk about themselves and their achievements, but this gets easier as you get the hang of it. In time you’ll expand your contacts and, before you know it, you’ll likely be familiar with the people at the networking events you attend.
Networking is one of those necessary situations we must all engage in. But it’s not helpful to your career or to your organization to be the designated wallflower at these events. By stretching out of your comfort zone—even just a little bit at a time—networking will start to become much easier.