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Do you feel uneasy in social gatherings? Do you prefer a small group of close people over tons of new faces? Well, you are not alone! These are typical personality traits of people who are considered introverts. Introverts usually have a preference for their personal world of thoughts and feelings, rather than the outside world of people.
However, being an introvert isn’t easy, especially when it comes to your professional life. This gets even more challenging when an introvert needs to socialize and network to find their next best opportunity. That said, networking is not impossible for professionals who avoid social spaces and public gatherings. All you need is a well-thought strategy and some practice. In this article, we will have a look at how you can network effectively as an introvert.
1) Start online before moving to offline networking
Online networking is the right place for you to explore networking with new people. It involves identifying the right people, connecting with them, and building a rapport online. This is a safe option for you because it does not require you to meet someone face-to-face or even speak directly on a call or in person. All you are required to do is develop a relationship with them online and plan your meeting only when you are comfortable.
Once you have had some experience and confidence in interacting with people, you can give offline networking a try. Offline networking refers to the process of meeting people in-person to explore new opportunities and collaborations. One of the best places to start offline networking is attending professional gatherings like company conferences or alumni events. However, if you are still hesitant about such events, we advise you to go for events of your interest.
For instance, if you are a pet lover, you can attend pet events for adults or your kids. The objective is to feel comfortable in social settings. You can simply do a Google search to explore such events or even check out ticketing platforms like Eventbrite and Eventzilla. Additionally, if you are one of those people who avoid family gatherings, you may go for one of those next time. The more offline events you attend, the more ready you are to network efficiently.
2) Reach out to existing contacts first
Talking to new people can be intimidating, and we totally get it. To avoid this, we suggest touching base with your existing professional and personal network first. This would mean reaching out to people already added to your LinkedIn or Facebook network. Some of these people could be:
- Friends/ Family members
- Other professionals working in your target industry/ job role
- A mentor/coach
However, if you are planning to seek help from your current colleagues or organization mentor, make sure it does not hamper your rapport with your current employer. Reach out only to people you completely trust. Generally, we would recommend keeping away from your current colleagues.
Starting with your existing network allows you to practice your skills with a trusted audience. Additionally, it takes some time to build a relationship with a new person. This will be much easier with your existing contacts, increasing your chances of success. Once you have made contact with all potential people, you can move to identify people outside your network.
3) Set networking goals
Attending events can be overwhelming. To make sure you optimize each opportunity, we recommend setting SMART goals. Before attending the event, make a list of objectives you are looking to achieve and think about how you can do it. With that thought, set some Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound goals. For example, speaking with at least 4 people at the event.
This will allow you to reach your goals conveniently, understand the changes required in your strategy, and implement them. However, we would further advise you to not go overboard with your goals. Being ambitious and strategic is great but make sure you don’t overdo yourself. This will not only impact the quality of output in that event but also affect your motivation for future events.
4) Prepare your conversations
Yes, natural conversations are key to building authentic relationships. However, this does not mean you can’t prepare for them. Consider your networking exercise as an interview and prepare accordingly. You shouldn’t depend on the other person to drive conversations for you. Do some homework and prepare some questions for ice breakers. Some resources you can use are:
- Questions to Ask at a Networking Event or Informational Interview by Yale University
- Networking: Questions to Ask by Harvard Law School
- The 20 Best Networking Questions to Ask by Ivy Exec
- 5 Better Questions to Ask at Your Next Networking Meeting by The Washington Post
5) Practice with friends and family
As mentioned earlier, prepare for your networking event like you would prepare for an interview. Working with a partner such as a friend or a family member will not only help you understand the flow of the conversation but also give you some feedback on your technique, confidence, and tone. This will allow you to enhance your networking style and get favorable results. Some pointers to seek feedback on could include:
- Your tone of voice
- The questions you ask
- Body language
- Your ability to answer questions
- Your listening skills and level of engagement
6) Set your expectations right
Socializing doesn’t come naturally to many of us. So when you adopt networking best practices, you may experience some awkwardness, stress, or anxiety. This will gradually go down with your interactions, helping you sound more confident. But for the first few meetings, things may not go as planned and that is totally okay.
Moreover, we want you to know that even the best practices are not bound to work all the time. So there may be a couple of times when people ghost you or are rude to you for no reason. In moments like these, trust yourself, keep calm, and move on to the next best thing. Managing your expectations is key here. It will allow you to have confidence and faith in yourself and your strategy, which will eventually work out in your favor.
Applying networking best practices
Let’s have a look at some top tips to help you get through the networking process below.
We understand that you may be anxious as things are starting to get awkward. Smiling at this moment may not be your first natural reaction. In fact, it may sound weird and quite opposite of what you are feeling. However, experts suggest that smiling can trick your brain into happiness. Does it really make you happy? Maybe not! But it will definitely give you more strength to deal with the situation appropriately. You will be able to quickly recover and think about what you need to do next.
- Listen and paraphrase to keep the conversation going
When you feel things are getting awkward and you are running out of conversations, you may want to paraphrase what the other party said and add some input from your end. This could also be a good opportunity to ask questions. Just make sure it doesn’t become a one-person conversation. Speak when you have to while ensuring you give others an equal chance to talk.
- Introduce a new topic
So are you revolving around the same topic again and again without getting any new information now? Maybe it is time to move to a new topic. If you have something in mind, just say it out loud. You can start with something like “Have you heard about XYZ” or “One of my friends recently worked on XYZ, what are your thoughts about it”. This will keep the conversation going and reflect your keen interest, demonstrating a positive image.
- Carry notes
Carrying notes to your professional networking event is not a bad idea. You could use these to write questions for ice breakers, your networking pitch, and additional ideas that you may want to talk about. Keep referring to them as and when required. However, make sure you don’t carry them all the time in your hands. Additionally, use properly trimmed sheets instead of paper parches that may create a poor impression. We also suggest avoiding using your phones for notes as using phones multiple times in a professional event may come across as being rude and unprofessional. That said, do what works best for you.
- Exit gracefully
It’s a networking event. You are not there to speak to only one person. If you want to take back at least 3 worthy contacts, you may have to speak to at least 8 to 10 people. So, work smart and see which conversations are making sense and adding value. If you believe it is the right time to move on and interact with someone else, exit gracefully. Remember, you are there to make the most of the limited time you have.
Networking as an introvert can be tedious. However, you can have a smooth experience if you implement the right strategy and resources. While socializing may seem challenging, some practice and a growth mindset can do wonders for you, ultimately bridging the gap between you and your desired job. For any support, feel free to reach out to us.