Some people are simply born for networking. They're able to connect with others in various contexts, keep the conversation going, and have the courage to talk to people they don't know. If you're an introvert and all of the above scares you, welcome aboard! Introverts usually find it very hard to delve into the reality of networking, which in essence means creating and nurturing new relationships. Don’t worry though — here are some tips on networking tailored specifically to the needs of introverted characters.
Realize Your Strengths
Introverts often use their character as an excuse for their inability or unwillingness to form relationships with strangers. The truth is, introverts are not really disadvantaged when it comes to their interpersonal skills — the important part is to realize it and choose networking activities that go in line with your personality.
Adapt Networking to Your Personality
For some, networking sure seems an extremely shallow approach to interpersonal relationships, but the truth is that it's not only about meeting new people, but also nurturing the connections you've developed before. In networking, numbers are really not an issue — one meaningful conversation is always better than a dozen superficial ones.
Engaging your people skills for the purposes of networking is really valuable from both the professional and personal perspectives — getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with other people will help you to grow. It's important to give before asking for something. You'd be surprised how many people might consider your insights relevant and interesting.
Play Your Strengths
If you're an introvert, you most probably excel at listening. This is a major character strength, because nothing makes people form a more genuine connection than when they feel understood. That's why when networking, feel free to give other people space to talk — especially the extroverts! Never interrupt others — regardless of your character, that's just plain rude.
Block the Noise
Interacting with many people at the same time can be distracting, but in order to have a quality conversation with one or two people, you'll need to learn how to block out the noise and focus. Networking is only worth the trouble if you're actually getting something back — it's best to talk with people you respect or admire.
If you're in a group, don't push yourself to speak up — listening is a great way to actually remember more about people and refer to things that interest you most in later conversations. That way, you'll also find it easier to open up and share your personal experience.
A little preparation never hurt anyone. When imagining your networking opportunity with terror, try to think of some icebreakers and potential questions you might ask. Work them into the context — if you're attending a conference, ask something like “How long have you been a member of this organization?” Find common points of interest and don't be scared of the possibility of awkward silence happening on the way.
But above all, keep one thought at the back of your mind — there surely are other introverts on this event that are just as anxious about talking to strangers and creating new connections.
Monique Craig is a marketing specialist who works for Oneflare, an online marketplace that connects customers with local service providers.