Ah, networking. Is there anyone who doesn’t dread it? Oh wait. Is that just me? Is my introvert showing? That’s right folks. Sometimes individuals who dedicate their careers to working with people are introverts. I can’t tell you how many times people refuse to believe that I’m an introvert because I’m a recruiting/HR coach who interacts with people all day. Clearly, they don’t see me at home at night or on weekends recharging like nobody’s business.
Even though people wear me out, I still dig my career and try to progress along my path. And I still network — even though most nights I’d rather be curled up on the couch at home. Often, the term “networking” has negative connotations associated with it. But at the end of the day, it’s just talking to people. We’re all capable of it every now and then, especially when we approach it in the right way. And there are big benefits to networking: it can help you land your next job, gain valuable professional contacts, or even make more friends. So, here are five tips to make networking less painful for introverts who hate doing it:
1. Do some digging. Research, people! You can do it alone and when you’ve got the energy to do so. Are there any peeps online that give you career envy? Read up on how they got to where they are. Seek out new and interesting career paths that you find intriguing, and then find some folks who work in that realm. Scope out how they got started. We’ve got so much information at our fingertips these days and getting our hands on it doesn’t even involve leaving our comfort zone. Doing the right research arms us with the tools to start a conversation with others a little more comfortably. Ask them about that article they recently shared on LinkedIn or the book they hyped on Twitter. Having the right information can help you to feel slightly less awkward when engaging with someone new.
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2. Use your superpowers. Play to your strengths. Are you an amazing listener? Many introverts are. When meeting someone in a networking capacity, arm yourself with a list of questions, take note of their answers, and use those insights as a follow-up in the future. It will speak volumes about you that you paid such close attention to the conversation, and it may open more doors than you realize. Go into conversations with new people with the goal of hearing their stories. Try to learn about new people, places, and things — introverts tend to be naturally curious and love adding to their vast stores of knowledge. Instead of focusing on what they can do for you, think about how you might be able to help them. That could be an extremely refreshing change of pace for people who are used to regularly getting hit up for advice or guidance.
3. Put the “social” in social media. Social media can be the quiet person’s best friend, especially when it comes to networking. You have the ability to get access to hiring managers, HR folks, and even CEOs at the touch of a button. Reach out to people you find interesting and ask to hear about them. The social world allows you to craft intelligent, thoughtful, and engaging messages to these people without all the stress that may come with face-to-face interactions. Plus, introverts often feel more comfortable writing their thoughts than speaking them. What may start as a request to connect can lead to much more meaningful dialogue if you ask the right questions. By the time you’re ready to connect live and in person, that person could feel like an old friend.
4. Take a break. If you’re going to an event, give yourself some alone time beforehand to just chill. Also, arm yourself with the tools you need to thrive, be it your phone (dog videos anyone?) or a meditation app to use before heading in. It’s okay to recognize when you need a break and take it. Especially if it will leave you feeling more ready to engage in conversation upon return. And if you get to an event and know it’s not for you, give yourself permission to turn around and try again another time. It might not be the right fit or timing could be off. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
5. Make a friend. My goal for a conference or event is to leave with one new contact. Just one — someone who I click with and want to keep in touch with. Chances are you’ll have options. The reason you’re at the event to begin with is because you nerd out over the same type of stuff. Who doesn’t want more folks to nerd out with?
People often make the mistake of not realizing the importance of building relationships in your career across industries, professions, etc. If you’re an introvert, it can be draining, but you never know where you’ll meet the person who could change your life (personally or professionally). Be open to connecting with people from a variety of worlds and backgrounds and willing to share your perspective. It could impact your future or theirs in ways you can’t begin to imagine. And remember, just because you’re an introvert, it doesn’t mean you can’t build relationships to further your life and career.
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Image credit: Shutterstock/Vladyslav Starozhylov