Hey there, Introverts! I’m waving at you…awkwardly. Most likely from a corner. And I’m probably armed with my notebook as a shield. While my other hand is doing this awkward wave…
If you are an introvert, you get where I’m coming from.
And if you are more introverted, you know that large gatherings of strangers can be a little overwhelming. It’s not that you don’t enjoy meeting new people and forging new relationships, it’s just that you find it a little difficult to make these connections when you’re in a crowd of people! You see everyone marching up to others and making introductions, and you can’t help but wonder how you fit in and fly high amongst all these social butterflies.
Networking is such an integral part of doing business today, but for most introverts, it’s so far out of our comfort zones, it may as well be Jupiter!
But! All is not lost! We’ve got 7 tips to share with you today that will help you harness your introverted superpowers, and have you networking like a pro! But these strategies are certainly not here to try and change you into someone else! They’re simply tips that you can employ to help you take your unique capabilities and strengthens and utilize them in a setting that’s not typically your cup of tea.
*Note: While these tips have been prepared by an introvert (a “naturally-social introvert” – according to Myers-Briggs, more on that in a bit! – but an introvert nonetheless) these strategies can also be adapted for those extroverts among us who want to kick their networking skills into high gear!
1. Understand Your Power
Introversion is no weakness! I’ll say it again, louder this time! (Although, no that loud, let’s be honest!) Introversion is no weakness. It’s just an often-misunderstood superpower! Yes, walking into a room full of people is intimidating, and then trying to “sell yourself” or your business to strangers on top of that may an anxiety-inducing scenario, but that’s only half of what networking is all about!
Understanding where your strengths lie can help you adapt those strengths for situations where you feel less comfortable.
Try a little introspection (we’re good at that!) and some positive self talk. Perhaps something like this: “So I find it difficult to make myself stand out in a crowd. That’s okay. But I am good at building one-on-one relationships, and nurturing these relationships, and I tend to be a good listener.”
And that’s really great! These are also networking skills, albeit, often less-recognized. But that doesn’t matter. The fact is, they are! These are just some of your introvert superpowers which can, in turn, make you successful when it comes to networking.
Pro Tip: Try taking a personality test, like Myers-Briggs, or try finding out your Enneagram type using this test. People often avoid doing these types of tests because they fear being put in a box, or not being able to find a type that they feel accurately describes them. But they are not meant to define you. They are simply great tools for giving you better insight into the larger spheres of your personality. They can help make you aware of certain blindspots, and they can give you the understanding you need to interact with other personalities successfully by showing you what you need to be aware of in your interactions.
Armed with this knowledge, you can head into networking situations with a boost of confidence!
2. Get Your Head in the Game
By this, I just mean prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more. Now, being prepared before heading off to networking events is a good idea for anyone, from the introvert to the extrovert and even all the ambiverts out there. But if you do tend to exhibit more reserved traits when it comes to meeting large amounts of new people, then a really great strategy is to take the prep stage seriously.
If you worry that you’re going to freeze up when confronted with meeting new people, you can ease this panic by jotting down some questions for when you’re making the rounds at networking events. Just don’t pull out your cue cards and start firing away questions when you’re actually engaging with someone! But there is nothing wrong with having a few questions prepared mentally beforehand that you can then ask naturally to get the ball rolling.
And since you’re taking the time to prepare, take the time to make your questions interesting and engaging. Steer clear of questions that could likely result in a basic “yes” or “no” response. Rather aim to prepare open-ended questions that could lead to a meaningful conversation.
For example, instead of asking, “Do you like what you do?” rather ask something like, “What part of your job do you find most challenging?” This allows the other person to share something that is unique to them in their work experience and should provide many avenues for follow-up questions.
3. Get Out of Your Head
I know, I know, this sounds awfully contradictory to the above strategy but I assure you it’s a perfect complement! Part of the reason why big gatherings of strangers, such as networking events or business conferences, are particularly stressful for introverted people is because we’re always in our own heads, analyzing our behavior, wondering if people like us, or if we’re just coming across as incompetent or worse, a fake. (Imposter syndrome is very real, folks!)
So one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given is to just get out of my own head! And now I’m passing this nugget onto you. Stop worrying about how you’re coming across, or stressing about what everyone thinks about you! Chances are, they’re probably just as focused on their own self-analysis and mission that they are taking you at face value, and not scrutinizing you under their mental microscope. Which is a huge relief!
If you can break the habit of getting lost in your feelings of self-doubt and, more often than not, negative self-talk, you’ll find that a good portion of your networking anxiety will be dissolved.
4. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
This saying is often attributed to Peter McWilliams, and perhaps also the Navy SEALs, but all I hear is Jillian Michael’s voice whenever I think about this phrase. (Thanks, Lockdown Home-Workout sessions!) But whoever coined it, the fact remains that it is a great strategy to help you master networking in your own way.
The truth is, most networking events, conferences, or conventions start off a little shaky. And you’re not the only one to experience this! More than likely, everyone is feeling a little out-of-place as these events kick off. But rather than freaking out about how awkward you feel, embrace it. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable at these types of events, and you’ll have halved your networking stress!
A practical way I do this is some inner talk. If I start feeling awkward or uncomfortable, particularly as I’m acclimatizing to the event, I remind myself that this almost always happens at the start, but as everyone shuffles to find their space within the group, that feeling mellows out, and the conversations and connections become meaningful. I also like to remind myself that there is a very good chance that everybody is feeling what I’m feeling to some degree! But that it will soon feel easy and natural.
But I also like to end my little self-talk with the assurance that, even if the atmosphere or my feelings don’t thaw out, and it’s just an awful event for whatever reason from start to finish, then, at the very least, I’ll come away with a hilarious story to share! This just helps to relieve the pressure from trying to make every networking opportunity a big win. Sometimes it’s just a learning curve – but that’s still a win!
5. Embrace the Challenge
Networking strategy for introverts Number 5 is to simply see each of these events as a healthy challenge. If you can take a step back (and remember to get out of your head!) you should be able to let go of some of the negative emotions you feel towards the event because it’s now an exciting challenge for you to learn and grow from, and not a punishment gauntlet you need to survive.
This approach may not take all the anxiety away, but it can definitely help put your fears into perspective, and maybe even turn those feelings of apprehension into ones of excitement! As you put in the preparation beforehand, starting thinking about the upcoming event as an exciting (even if it is a little scary) challenge that you’re going to navigate and learn from.
To take this strategy a little further, I find it helpful to do a little “mental stock take” at the end of these types of events. I think about how I felt, how I think I handled all the different situations (aim to do this in a pragmatic way, steering clear of self-criticism!) and then I often just make a note or two as to how I could improve the next time round.
6. Look Approachable
“Chin up, shoulders back, and smile on,” as my mom will always tell me. And she’s right (as mother’s tend to be!) because standing up straight with a genuine smile on your face makes you look approachable, which is the look you’re going for at these networking events after all!
Looking approachable makes it that much more likely that people will come up to you when they’re doing the rounds, rather than you having to live out one of your fears of walking up to strangers. Looking relaxed and at ease outwardly (inwardly, you may be freaking out…just a little bit…totally okay!) can actually help draw others to you, without you having to go looking for those interactions. This also gives your confidence a massive boost, as you’re now in the perfect position to direct the conversation, use the questions you’ve prepared, and be able to put the other person at ease.
This can give you a sense of power – not over the other person, mind you – but in the knowledge that you are now in the perfect place to showcase your introvert superpowers by really listening to the other person, asking those engaging questions, and laying the foundation for a great working relationship.
7. Utilize Social Media
The last strategy that everyone could and should use to assist their networking escapades in this day and age is social media. All the social platforms, from the more business-world orientated LinkedIn, to Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest are incredible networking resources. They give everyone, but particularly introverts, the chance to make connections, without the awkward and often intimidating first in-person interaction.
You can wield the power of social media and really start to establish great connections with loads of people without having to make that dreaded small talk! Social media allows you to get right down to business, so to speak, by giving you a whole host of ways to showcase what you offer and what you can do, and then to leverage this in the making of long-lasting relationships.
Whether you slide, professionally of course, into the DM’s of potential partners who you follow on Instagram, get active in the comments of that Facebook group geared towards your line of work, or through offering some of your valuable content on LinkedIn, social media can make networking that much more enjoyable, as it can eliminate that awkward beginning stages and allow you to head fairly quickly to the areas where you shine – the building and maintaining of great business relationships.
Related read: Social Media Marketing Options For Podcasts
The traditional view of networking can be tough for the introvert. Walking into a room like you own it and selling yourself or your business with sky-high confidence is often not something that comes naturally to us. And that is totally a-okay! Because there is way more to successful networking than just those initial meetings. You need to be able to convert those brief interactions into something meaningful if you want all that effort of networking to actually be of any use, and that is your time to shine!
However, you do have to break that initial ice to get there. These tips can help anyone network more effectively, but they are particularly useful for all the fellow introverts. Put these into practice the next time you’re attending a networking event, and you’ll find a whole new appreciation and enjoyment for these types of situations. And remember, whether you identify as an introvert or extrovert or anywhere in between given the day and circumstances, if you can be confident in the fact that we all have our own places where we shine the brightest, we’ll be able to embrace the aspects we find challenging with optimism and enthusiasm to learn new things, grow our expertise, and confidently share what we’re so passionate about.