If you want to get ahead in your career, you’re going to have to schmooze with the big names in your industry. While for some people this isn’t a huge issue, networking for introverts can be an extremely stressful procedure. But, it’s important to remember that, as an introvert, you have certain skills and natural attributes that actually put you at an advantage over your more outgoing competition. You can prepare for the next networking event by:
As an introvert, you’re probably no stranger to practicing even the most basic of human interactions. If you’re anything like me, you have to psyche yourself up before even going to the bank or grocery store, practicing exactly what you’re going to say to the teller or cashier and doing your best to stick to the script.
Of course, when networking, your conversations aren’t going to simply be about the weather or last night’s baseball game - and that’s okay. Just work on knowing what you’re going to talk about with each new person you meet, such as your qualifications, your current position, and your hopes for your future. Whatever you do, don’t go in blind. If you don’t have a gameplan, you’ll most likely end up shying away from anything resembling meaningful conversation, and the entire networking session will be a waste of your time. Come to the session thinking like Peyton Manning: have an overall idea of how to approach everyone, but be ready to change the plan as needed.
2. Doing your homework
When you know you’ll be meeting new people who could help propel your career to higher places, you need to know exactly who you’ll be talking to. It’s no secret that people love to be recognized; knowing this, you should enter a networking session knowing who does what in a company, what title they hold, and what they’ve helped the company accomplish in the past. Each of them will most likely have a short bio on the company website, so take a look and see if there’s anything worth noting that you could sneak into a conversation. Like I said, people love to be recognized, so chances are they’ll take your comment and run with it, giving you a much needed "in." Not only that, but you’ll also stand out in their mind after the networking session ends.
3. Keeping it short and sweet
As an introvert, you work best in short bursts of interaction. Most conversations you have with new people in your life tend to peter out after a few minutes, and that’s just fine. But remember that while you’re networking. Use the George Costanza method: always keep them wanting more.
A side benefit to keeping conversations short and to the point is that you’ll get around and make a bunch of little connections throughout the session. Obviously, over time you’re going to want to grow each connection into a much greater potential relationship, but it never hurts to cast a wide net and plant many different seeds to see which ones grow.
4. Focusing on your strengths
I know, I know - as an introvert, it’s incredibly difficult to talk yourself up. But a networking session is not the time to be bashful. During your preparation, you hopefully came up with a list of your accomplishments and skills that you are confident will benefit your career over the long haul. Don’t hide these tidbits of information. There’s really no point of you even trying to network if you’re not going to talk about yourself at least a little bit.
Unfortunately, introverts tend to think that anytime they talk about themselves they come off as boastful. What they don’t realize is sometimes there’s nothing wrong with talking about yourself. There’s definitely a fine line between showing pride in your work and being a braggart, but as an introvert, you most likely don’t have to worry about that at all. You’ve worked hard in your life; let the important people who will help further your career see that!
5. Piggybacking off of a friend
Networking is, by nature, all about getting "in" with a group of people. And there might not be any better way to do that than to know someone who’s already "in" with the rest of the group. It’s how so many friendships, and even romantic relationships, begin. So there’s no shame in starting a business relationship in the same way. Hopefully, you have a friend who already works for a company, or is already an established name in the industry. Take advantage of the situation by letting him introduce you to his already established network of professionals. Best of all, he’ll talk you up to the crowd so you don’t have to. Once everyone hears how talented you are from another person’s mouth, they’ll view your bashfulness as modesty - not a bad quality to have in any industry.
6. Making others come to you
I’m not saying that you should stand around waiting to be noticed, or for others to actively come up to you and introduce themselves; this most likely won’t happen, especially with countless other people vying for their attention. But if you make yourself approachable through your body language, you’ll be more likely to attract at least a couple individuals for polite introductions.
Project an air of confidence by standing straight, with your head up, and a smile on your face. It sounds cheesy, but think about it: would you approach someone if the look on their face told you they didn’t want to be bothered? Of course not. And under no circumstances should you pretend to look busy by looking through your phone or whatever portfolio you brought along with you. You might think it looks good to be engaged in something important, but, for one, you’re not fooling anyone, and secondly, you’re sending the message that you have better things to do than talk to the people around you.
7. Listening and paying attention
Okay, introverts. Here’s your strong suit. It’s more than likely you enjoy sitting back and listening to other people’s stories, living vicariously through their own words. While networking, this is totally fine; but you can’t get lost in your own thoughts while doing so. Hang on to every single word they say, and interject more than you usually would if the opportunity arises. Take mental notes of even the little things, like how long a person’s been with the company, or where they went on vacation last year (if it comes up).
The next time you see them, bringing up previously discussed information (organically, of course) will make them realize not only that you were truly listening to them, but also that you actually cared about what they have to say. This will go a long way toward forging a long-lasting professional relationship.
Networking is tough, especially for those of us who’d much rather be curled up in bed with their cat and a good book. But by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, it becomes easier and easier to put yourself out there each and every time you do it. Take a step in the right direction, and you could end up changing your entire career path.
Are you an introvert? Do you have your own tips for networking? Let us know in the comments section below...