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Yes, Introverts can Network!
Deb Ward / AUGUST 25 2020
Summary

You may think that being an introvert means you aren’t good at networking. That’s simply not true. Whether you an introvert or an extrovert really comes down to how you recharge. Introverts tend to build their energy by being quiet and alone while extroverts are energized by being around people. It’s just a preference and has nothing to do with being charming, very outgoing, or speaking to others with ease.

You just need a strategy to maximize the benefits of your ability to connect deeply with others. When you choose your events carefully, select settings that work for you and honor your preferences by positioning yourself to be at your best, you will make it work for your style and have plenty of success.

Signs you might be an introvert

Not all introverts are alike, but there are some behavior patterns they have in common. In general:

  • They feel comfortable being alone
  • They are often more self-aware and reflective
  • They feel tired after interacting with a large group
  • They may have fewer friends, but those relationships are deep and close
  • They rest and recharge by retreating to a quiet place 
  • They need quiet to concentrate
  • They don’t enjoy group work, committees, etc.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. Introverts often prefer to skip social events because they are more comfortable doing things with a small group or alone. Those who are shy may feel nervous or have negative feelings in large groups or social situations.  That’s not necessarily the case for introverts: they simply don’t prefer large groups, but they don’t have negative feelings about it. 

Also, being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not friendly or that you can’t be a good leader. Often, introverts are better at listening and can stay focused on long-term goals. They seem less intimidating, so people find them more approachable. 

Tips for making networking less painful

  1. Be yourself.Don’t expect yourself to behave like the “life of the party.” Understand your own style and play to your strengths.
  2. Smile. If you’re standing by the wall with your arms crossed, you don’t appear very approachable. Do your best to look warm and casual. It’ll make it easier for someone to walk up to you and engage.
  3. Have a plan. Set up realistic expectations of what you hope to accomplish through networking. You don’t need to collect a record number of business cards in an hour. Decide you’ll make one or two meaningful connections at this event and follow up afterward.
  4. Ask for introductions. If you don’t know anyone, ask some on the panel or an organizer who they think you should meet at this function. You might ask if they would be willing to make an introduction.  Be specific about what your goal is for the event so they can make a good suggestion.
  5. Take a colleague or friend along. Having a “wingman” makes a large event less scary. You’ll have someone to eat with and to pick up the slack if the conversation drops off.
  6. Prepare some questions. Before you go, think about a few questions you can ask someone to break the ice. You might ask where they grew up or what their favorite sports team is.  You don’t have to make it all about work.
  7. Listen. Introverts are very good at this. Spend more time listening, being curious and patient. People appreciate your attention and interest.
  8. It’s OK if it’s a bit awkward.Meeting new people can be a little uncertain. This is not the time to make a quick exit. Set a limit for the time you’ll stay and chat, walk around the room, pick up a drink or snack and you might be surprised that you’ll stay longer thank you planned.
  9. Have a plan for follow up. Even though you’re relieved to head home and be done, don’t forget to follow up with those you’ve met. Consider a next step with one or two people and suggest a one-on-one coffee or brief drink after work. If they shared some advice with you, let them know what you did with that information and how much you appreciate it.
  10. Consider hosting your own event. This may be the best way to maximize your strengths. Consider a small group of people you’re interested in and get together in a quiet space where you can really talk. You’ll be in control of the environment and you can focus on really getting to know your participants.

Introverts can be really adept at networking. True networking means connecting with fellow professionals and sharing information, advice and concerns…making strong connections. This is core strength of introverts. Honor your preferences and have a game plan. Look for opportunities to make it work for your style and you’ll find success in building a solid professional network.