Carl Jung may have described it as “inwardly directed psychic energy”, our parents may have dismissed it as “shaant svabhaav”, and people around us accepted it as “shyness”. But the one thing that introverts at the workplace know introversion truly is, is a “networking nightmare”.
Go out of our way to put ourselves in social situations? Meet and converse with new people? Engage in small talk? Establish rapport with strangers? And on top of that, continue to maintain the connection once it’s been made? Networking can truly be an introvert’s idea of hell.
However, networking is an important part of your career journey – even, if not especially, when you’re an introvert.
So the question arises: How do you network as a shy person?
Networking 101 for introverts:
In the first part of this series, we broke down all the tips an introvert needs to smoothly and successfully navigate the workplace. (Read here)
In this guide, we’ll be going one step ahead in your career journey, and breaking down how an introvert can grow by networking like a pro!
Understand Why Even Introverts Need To Network
As uncomfortable as it may make you, networking is essential to career growth. It is a key way to gain authentic industry knowledge, find mentors who will guide you, contemporaries who will promote and support you, and clients who will be willing to engage in a transaction with you.
If you’re an introvert who maintains a small group of connections in general, networking is all the more important for your career.
Realise that you don’t need to have the gift of gab or be able to command a room to build your professional network. Read on to understand how introverts build connections and how you can play into your strengths as an introvert when networking!
Practice Networking In Less Stressful Contexts First
If the first time you actively network is for a conference your manager asks you to represent your organization for, the unfamiliarity and pressure of the situation, in addition to your inherent discomfort as an introvert, are likely to put you off the networking game completely.
When it comes to your networking skillset, nurture it before you need it.
Put yourself in situations where you can make new connections that are not as essential to your personal or professional growth, where failing to make a beneficial and sustainable connection will be easier for you to see as an opportunity to learn from your mistake, rather than feel unsuccessful.This is the first of some key networking strategies for introverts.
Experiencing wins in these less stressful networking situations will boost your confidence when you’re networking with a purpose.
Define Your Purpose And Approach Beforehand
Know why you’re attempting to connect with the person. Do you hope to collaborate with them? Do you simply want to promote your services? Are you looking for a potential client?
Knowing your purpose can give you a goal to latch on to if you become anxious or overwhelmed when talking to the person.
Choose an approach that allows you to communicate most effectively and feel most comfortable. Are you able to communicate better when meeting people one on one? Are you most comfortable in a group setting? Maybe you’re most articulate through virtual communication. Re-define how you approach the individual in a way that best showcases your personality and abilities. An interesting research says that even within introverts there are 4 types, each with their own strengths and advantages. The 4 types of introverts are – social introvert, thinking introvert, anxious introvert, and restrained introvert. Which one are you? Take this quiz to find out!
Set Smaller, More Achievable Goals
This is a key step to building connections as an introvert. While an extrovert might walk into a networking event with a game plan to wow the entire room, you will benefit from identifying a few strategic networking tips for introverts beforehand.
(Continue to read below.)
- A Guide To Navigating The Workplace As An Introvert
- Ace The Networking Game Even If You Are Working From Home
- Here Are The Networking Tips That Helped Me Get More Work As A Freelancer
- What It Means To Be A Procrastinator With A Job (And How To Succeed!
If you’re at a networking event, have a plan to talk to just two people, for example. This can work to your benefit. Instead of having 15 business cards at the end of the night, aim to have engaged in two meaningful conversations where you actually spoke, listened, and learned.
Setting smaller goals for yourself does not mean you’re aiming for smaller success. It just means you’re aware of your weaknesses and are playing to your strengths, on your path to achieving success.
Build A Presence Online
This is especially helpful if going to networking events or talking to new people in-person is just not your thing.
While working on your in-person networking tactics, simultaneously build your online presence. Reach out to people on LinkedIn and form an impressive network. Reach out to interesting people you see online via email or any contact information they have provided. Be active on online communities, especially career communities (like the Kool Kanya Community!). Maintain a blog or social media account, that regularly logs your personal and professional achievements.
An impressive online presence today will not only help you reach more people but also increase the chances of people getting in touch with you themselves.
Host, Or Volunteer For, Networking Events
A great way to ensure you are networking on your terms is to create your own event. By having the liberty to pick the people, the size of the group, and the venue, you automatically have more control over the situation and can play it to your strengths. You could schedule the meeting in a favourite coffee shop you frequent, for example, or organize a Zoom meeting if you prefer virtual networking.
Even if you’re not hosting the networking event, you could volunteer for one. Volunteers at events are very likely to get introduced to, and interact with, all the attendees. If you’re prone to standing in the corner and feeling too anxious to approach anyone during events, volunteering can be a great opportunity to interact with people and make an impression, with ready boundaries at your disposal.
Understand Your Limits And Need To Recharge
Don’t feel the need to step into the skin of an extrovert every time you attempt to network. This is not sustainable, and you’ll be worn out before you can build a truly helpful and supportive network.
If you know a meeting with a potential client or a conference you have to attend is going to require you to step out of your comfort zone, give yourself adequate time beforehand to prepare and build up your energy. Give yourself time to recover after your time spent networking. If you have to attend an event after a long call with a potential client, consider giving the event a miss.
Honour your need to recharge, as well as how you choose to recharge.
You do need to challenge yourself while networking. But don’t forget to be true to yourself during this process, and most importantly, be kind to yourself.
Follow these tips and work towards building a network that makes up for your professional weaknesses, heightens your strengths, and celebrates your wins. In the long run, your efforts at building such a network as an introvert is what will help you truly thrive in your career as one too!
If you found these networking strategies for introverts helpful, stick around for more such introverts guides to leadership, interviews, and more!
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