By Joelly Lucien
Networking is a skill, and like any other skill, it can be learned. For an introvert, networking can be particularly uncomfortable. It can feel forced, awkward or even scary at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Here are four ways introverts can excel at networking:
1. Throw out your misconceptions.
We are a long way from the dimly-lit-overly-crowded-happy-hour-name-tag-wearing days. The idea behind it has changed significantly over the past few years, and it’s now something that can be done virtually as well as in person.
Networking is not making small talk; it’s asking meaningful questions and seeking genuine advice from those who know more than you do about certain topics within your industry or profession so that you can learn from them and grow professionally through their experience.
2. Use technology as an aid.
Networking can take many forms, not just attending professional events. For introverts, building relationships through social media platforms like Linkedin, Linkedin groups, as well as other online communities is a great and effective alternative. You can also join small industry organizations with both in personal and virtual events.
Once you’ve identified someone with whom you’d like to network, start by introducing yourself via email or phone call. Then ask for 15 minutes of their time for coffee or lunch so that you can get better acquainted. This gives them a chance to decide if they want to invest their time in getting to know you better as well as giving you an opportunity to assess whether or not this person would be valuable for your professional development or career advancement goals.
3. Don’t feel like you have to talk about yourself all the time.
Listen more, talk less. Networking is not a job interview or a first date so let go of the pressure to be “on”. Ask questions about others’ passions, goals, challenges, and obstacles. Find commonality where you can.
Once you’ve found your people and created relationships with them, you’ll note the conversations begin to move forward naturally on their own.
4. Have fun!
Charlie Hoehn, author of Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety, suggests scheduling a “networking meeting” to play a game of catch with someone, rather than a standard lunch or coffee. If you can find a way to organize something different–and fun–people will want to come to your meetings or take part in your initiative.
Whether you go as far as setting up a game of catch or not, remember, no matter how you network, it’s about connecting with others who share similar interests and goals for professional growth — not just handing out business cards. Happy networking!