7 Tips To Network Effectively Even If You Are An Introvert
You are an introvert. So, you are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to networking, right? Wrong. Despite society and popular media would have you believe, it is not always extroverts who are getting the raise, the promotion, the award, etc. Yes, they are generally more charismatic than their introverted counterparts. But that does not make them more qualified or better leaders.
Granted, there has been a consistent celebration of extroversion in workplaces around the world. But being an introvert comes with its own set of strengths. Your duty to yourself as an introvert would be to honour those strengths. Recognize yourself for the highly qualified individual that you are. Revel in your own awesomeness. Acknowledge that you have qualities that are different from that of extroverts, but they are just as good.
Some people recommend going to networking events with a friend. That way, you are not completely lost among star networkers. You get to take baby steps out of your comfort zone. In my opinion, going with a friend is bad advice. I have done this and the only person I ended up “networking” with was my friend. And I already knew her for years! Take a leap of faith and go alone. Understand that you can still network successfully. Just follow the tips below:
Accept and embrace your introversion
Accept that you are an introvert. Accept that it is okay to be one. In fact, embrace that it is its own form of superpower! Susan Cain, in her book “Quiet” and her TED talk “The Power of Introverts”, talks about how one of the differences between introverts and extroverts essentially determines their tolerance for small talk. Extroverts are a lot more comfortable with it. You, on the other hand, are more comfortable discussing ideas, complex notions, and things that require time and attention. These are important qualities for success. Welcome them. Celebrate them.
It is easier to hide behind a screen. And there is nothing wrong with it either. Deep down I am a huge introvert. If you put me in a room full of entrepreneurs and professionals to network with, I will be the one starting off in the corner. Making myself as invisible as possible whilst I am assessing the rest of the room. It is easier to network online where you are not as exposed as you would be in person. If that notion comforts you, go with it. Some of my most successful networking endeavours have been online. Especially for those of us running online businesses, online networking is a go-to.
Listen and smile
When I am too nervous to speak, I listen. When I am too intimidated by the people around me, I offer a genuine smile at the right moments. Stop that internal monologue where you urge yourself to say something clever. Stop beating yourself up in your head when nothing clever comes to you. Pay attention instead. Listen. Smile an authentic smile whenever you have a chance. It is one of those universal things that immediately make you more likeable. Try it. A smile goes a long way.
Design your own networking activity
New places plus new people equals terrible social anxiety. To minimize that, design your own networking events! You get to choose how big or how intimate they will be. They can be as formal or as informal and quirky as you wish. Redefine the whole networking event shenanigan. Throw a small picnic for five people in the nearby park and talk about your business goals and visions.
Speak kindly to yourself
This again has to do with accepting your own introversion. I have been so hard on myself in the past because I could not get a word out of my mouth at some event. Everyone around me networked like there was no tomorrow. I nervously moved from circle to circle without ever saying anything. Pretty sure my face showed it all. Because several people asked if I was okay! I beat myself up about that for so long! I said mean things to myself – “you are such a mess!”, “why couldn’t you say anything?”, “you are never getting anywhere this way”, etc. Since then I have learned to speak kindly to myself. I told myself it was okay if I could not say anything. I listened, I learned. I remember things about the people I met. When I run into them again, I will have something to say.
Reconnect with existing contacts
The ice has already been broken. You already know each other. Do not let old connections get cold. Drop them a line by email or text from time to time. Ask them how they are doing. Update them on recent developments in your own business. Check if you can help them out in any way, even if it is simply recommending a good sushi place.
Make friends with extroverts
That is correct. Despite what popular media or even your own workplace would have you believe, extroverts do not have to be your rivals, in fact, I would describe my closest friend as an extrovert. Learn to see them as friends and allies. In fact, any project is best executed with extroverts and introverts, and overall people of different personalities and abilities collaborate. The most successful collaborations are when people bring the best of their own unique strengths to the table.
There you have it. Now go and network! Remember to be kind to yourself. Remember that it is okay to not do it the same way you see extroverts do it. Find your own path.
See you next week!