If you’re an introvert, you know the following to be true:
- You have a close, tight-knit group of people you consider to be your best friends.
- Talking on the phone is your own personal hell.
- You’d rather wear your mom’s clothes from the 70s than make small talk with a complete stranger. Then again, vintage is making a comeback.
- In high school and college, participating in class discussions made you want to curl into the fetal position.
- Your idea of a wild, Friday night includes interacting (but not too much!) with the pizza delivery guy in between Netflix episodes.
And that’s perfectly okay.
But for some reason, society would like us to believe that we introverts broke the mold, that we’re special—as in “stop eating glue” special.
That our unique take on the world presents a challenge that we must somehow find the motivation to overcome. Our personalities have handicapped us, in a sense, and only a small fraction of us ever break out of our shell to become normally-functioning, fake extroverts.
Related post: 4 Epic Ways Introverts Can Improve Their Relationships
But we know that’s a lie. We know the following are also true about us:
- We often make the best listeners. Once you’ve told us a secret, we’ll take it to the grave.
- We’re quiet, yeah, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on upstairs. We take longer to process things, and when we do, we usually offer a deeper, more thoughtful understanding of the world around us.
- We’re often diligent, intrinsically-motivated workers—and dreamers.
But in a world that seems specifically designed for extroverts, it’s sometimes difficult to keep from feeling inadequate. Especially in the business arena, introverts are often misunderstood and ignored by the more dynamic and aggressive extrovert. Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying; this behavior doesn’t always happen on purpose! Let’s be honest with ourselves: the blame lies on us part of the time for not speaking up often or loud enough when we should or for not asserting ourselves more as often as we could.
If you’ve never taken the time to understand all the nuances that being an introvert brings to the table, our society can be a distressing place to live. Too much talk, too much noise, too much TURNED UP ALL THE TIME. Too much interaction. If you’ve never realized that although being introverted presents its challenges it’s not necessarily a stumbling block, you may never have realized what a truly phenomenal personality trait you possess.
And that would be a real downer.
When embarking on your career path, managing your introverted tendencies isn’t always easy, and it requires a knowledge of yourself and your particular capabilities (and weaknesses) to better understand how it can work to your advantage.
As it turns out, the corporate world has its own form of class participation: networking. Before I researched this topic and participated in a networking event myself, I was ready to just give up on the whole idea.
I mean, interacting with people you’ve never met, making idle chit-chat, being forced to come up with numerous conversation topics—all while trying to be your most charming self when you literally only like about 3 people in the entire world? (And carbs. Everyone likes carbs.)
It’s cruel and unusual punishment.
…but a necessary evil.
If you’ve spent any time on the job search, you know that your ability to network effectively can be a game-changer. Even if you can’t bare the idea of shooting the breeze with the pizza delivery guy, or cringe at the thought of working a crowded networking event, I’ve got good news. Networking doesn’t have to be excruciatingly painful and awkward, unless you randomly bust a move at a networking conference. I don’t really recommend that.
Meeting new people in a professional setting is only as uncomfortable—or fun—as you make it.
The following are my favorite pieces of advice for introverts to help you ease into the networking scene. I’ve even given each tip a quirky little title to make the whole thing seem less threatening. 😉
15 Clever Ideas to Help Introverts Network with Confidence + Success Click To Tweet
15 Clever Ideas to Help Introverts Become the Center of Attention
Don’t worry—I’m joking. Wipe that panicked look off your face.
1 | “BLOGGER BFF”
If you’re a blogger, try reaching out to your fellow bloggers via email. Expand your reach to include more than just blog comments and Twitter shares.
Don’t ignore the potential for forming lasting connections that are right under your nose—or fingers. If you’re a blogger, then you probably have favorite blogs that you frequent, right? Well, let me ask you a question. Have you ever taken the time to reach out to the author behind any of your favorite blogs? Or do you stick to just leaving vague comments on their posts or randomly sharing them on Twitter a few times a month?
That’s not going to cut it. If you admire a fellow blogger’s work, tell them! Show them! Let them know that you value what they do. Reach out via email and make the first move. You don’t need to write a novel; just make them aware that they have a loyal reader who is a member of their circle
You never know what opportunities this gesture could lead to in the future. “Cold” email too random for you? Send them a (personalized) DM on Twitter or via another social media platform.
Fellow blogger? Check out a few of my favorite blogging tools.
2 | “SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING CONNECTIONS”
If you participated in a sorority during college, you have a wide range of potential connections ready-made. Sorority’s have an advantage for including people from a variety of backgrounds. You may already have sorority sisters in your career network that you didn’t even know about.
A sorority is often a life-long commitment to not only friends/sisters but also networking opportunities. After you graduate college is no time to let your relationships formed with your fellow sisters fall by the wayside. It’s worth the effort to stay in touch via social media, email, or phone call.
Even better? Host annual (or more frequent) get-togethers with former sorority members. Exchange contact information, ask for advice, and let your sisters continue to motivate you as they did in college. Even if you lost touch with sorority friends after graduation or have recently relocated for work or grad school, you can always use Facebook or sorority directories to search for friends or sisters in different chapters who may be willing to reconnect or show another sister around a new city.
3 | “INTROVERTS UNITE”
Did you know that around 50% of people have introverted tendencies? I’m one of them! And I’m assuming since you’re reading this post that you are, too. Chances are, you know other introverts. It’s okay to stick together; seek out those other introverts when networking. Maybe they’ve discovered some helpful tips for meeting new people as an introvert. Exchange notes and boost each other up.
As a fellow introvert, I know how hard it can be to meet new people and interact with them; throw in an awkward networking event and mindless small talk, and you’ve got an introvert’s worst nightmare. But here’s a hint: look for those other introverts in the networking crowd at an event—chances are, you’re not alone. Find them and buddy up (not in a creepy way).
Work as a team when meeting potentially important people at a networking function. Bounce ideas and conversation off one another; in this way, the whole focus isn’t solely on you, and you don’t have to work as hard trying to think up things to say.
4 | “TEACHER’S PET”
Start with what you know—or rather, who you know. If you had a favorite professor in school, make sure you keep in touch via Facebook, Facebook alumni groups, LinkedIn, etc. You never know when they may recommend you for a position or internship they hear about.
Don’t be intimidated to ask one of your professors from college to stay in touch with you post-graduation, write you a recommendation, or mention your name for a potential job opening—provided you earned these favors. Professors never mind, at least in my experience, helping out their students in the career department, even if you are no longer in any of their classes. Your university offers you many valuable connections in the people who helped make your education great; don’t waste these opportunities or think their value decreases once you’ve got that diploma. Pick the brains of your favorite alumni and use their experiences to guide you throughout the job hunt.
5 | “WE ARE FAMILY”
Moving back home after college means reuniting with old friends, but it could also mean interacting with a brand new job network—via your family. Scope out your familial acquaintances who might make a possible opportunity for a career connection.
Now tell me you don’t have that song stuck in your head now. You’re welcome.
Your family is a wealth of possible networking opportunities. They will more than likely know the most people in your hometown; if you moved away to attend university, you might have lost touch with important people in your area. Maybe you worked in your dad’s office when you were in high school. One of his past client’s may be interested in working with you again as a college grad. However, don’t just limit yourself to your parents. If your sibling or cousin often volunteered growing up, they will no doubt have numerous connections available to you.
6 | “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER”
If you find yourself getting nervous before a networking event, do some research about the event itself. You’ll be knowledgeable and know what you’re walking into—and all that information can double as an ice breaker.
It can obviously be awkward starting conversations with strangers, especially at networking events and mixers where the pressure is on, and you’re expected to sell your personal brand. Make things a little easier on yourself by learning about an upcoming event you’re attending beforehand. In the process, you’ll hopefully be able to calm any nerves you may be feeling.
As someone who is a perfectionist and a little Type A, I like being 100% prepared. If I”m not, it makes me 10x more nervous about an experience. Researching an event will also provide you with something to say once you get there. You’ll find plenty to talk about, break the ice, and meet new people all at the same time.
7 | “THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE JOB”
Morning person? Try looking into breakfast/brunch networking events in your city. Schmooze with the best over an egg-white omelet instead of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
When you attend a breakfast mixer, you’re already ahead of the competition. You’ll get your face (and your brand) in front of potential employers and connections before their busy days full of emails, business meetings—and other hires clamoring to get their attention.
And all those slackers from college who struggled to wake up for those 8 a.m.s? Dude, you’ve got ’em beat. Plus, whose morning isn’t made better by the presence of some french toast and OJ, amiright?
Hate networking? 15 Clever Ideas to Network Like a Pro Click To Tweet
8 | “IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU…UNTIL IT’S NOT”
Networking is about forming relationships with others, but it’s also about providing actual value. How can you best share value and help someone else?
Don’t be stingy with your knowledge and ideas; many times we get more by giving away something first. If you’re anxious about being in a networking setting, focus on the other people—how can you serve them? How can you help them with a problem they’re having? How can you make them feel at ease? How can you teach them something?
Often, we do our best work when we stop focusing on ourselves.
9 | “HEY, I SAW YOUR SELFIE ON TINDER AND YOU’RE HIRED”
…saaaaid no one ever. Since HR often researches potential employees on social media, make sure your profiles online have nothing to hide.
Think that what you put on social media doesn’t matter? Think again.
If they have the misfortune of viewing a social media picture of you throwing up a gang sign, you can be sure they’ll swipe left—on you and your resume. Posting everything on social media could potentially cost you a job. Your resume has a maximum of 6 seconds to impress a hiring manager. If you make the first cut, and they feel like doing a little background check on you, what will they find?
Don’t sabotage yourself or your future at your dream job by being reckless with the type of content you allow others (read: potential employers) to see.
Even when you think something is deleted forever…
…turns out a lot of times it really isn’t.
Pro tip: If you don’t want your Nana seeing it, don’t be postin’ it.
Related: 5 Ways to Make Decisions Like a Boss
10 | “PERSONALITY ON FLEEK”
To network effectively, do you need to be stoic and boring 24/7? Not at all. While you want to remain professional, remember that people don’t like interacting with robots. Feel free to be yourself and interject your personality in what you’re doing.
Think about your favorite celebrity, blogger, or comedian—maybe they’re all one in the same. What makes you like them so much? What keeps you going back for more (more movies, more blog posts, more shows, etc.)? What makes them memorable?
They’re unabashedly themselves.
11 | “BUSINESS UP FRONT…MORE BUSINESS IN THE BACK”
Business cards aren’t reserved for just sleazy car salesmen. Start carrying a personal business card—even if you’re still in college. Keep it basic and professional, while still allowing your personality to shine through. You never know when you might need one. A business card, that is. Not a personality. I’m sure you have a great personality.
It may seem strange to carry a business card and hand it out if you don’t have a legitimate business or you’re not currently working. However, a business card can do wonders for stepping up your networking game and helping you appear more prepared and experienced. Make sure your business card includes your full name, 2 ways to contact you, a URL to your LinkedIn profile (if you have one), and your current job status/the type of work you are looking for.
12 | “KARMA’S A FRIEND”
Pay it forward: recommend a friend for a position or internship or connect them with a mentor. Your friend or network acquaintance will remember you in the future in similar situations, and it will pay off.
I already know what you’re thinking…
“But, Bria, if I recommend my friend for a job or connect them with someone who can mentor them, I’ll be losing out on those opportunities! Are you crazy??”
Calm down. No, I’m not crazy. I totally get that. But you see, if you help them, it somehow almost always has a way of coming back to you. Just trust me on this one—I’ve seen it in action.
And hey, if your friend never returns the favor, don’t worry. I will personally buy you coffee to make up for it, and we can talk about it. Just because you don’t benefit now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. You’ll have done a good deed, and that’s worth a lot. Good deeds are sometimes few and far between.
Plus, you can always hold it over your friend’s head and make them feel guilty about it, right? Right.
13 | “KNOW THYSELF”
Before going into a networking setting, make a mental (or physical) list of the following: your experience, your talents, your assets, your interests, and your weaknesses. Know yourself in order to be fully prepared.
Don’t you hate when you go to a restaurant and you order the juiciest, most delicious-sounding burger off the menu and you ask the waiter what’s on the burger and he’s all like, “I don’t know”?
You are that hamburger.
Sorry, I meant for that to sound more poetic, but I was hungry when I wrote this.
What I mean is this: it’s your job to know what’s on your professional menu, a.k.a your resume. How were you prepared, i.e. where did you attend college? What are your toppings, i.e. what do you bring to the table by way of job experience?
How do you expect to “sell” yourself and your talents if you don’t even know what they are?
14 | “PRACTICE MAKES DECENT”
If you’d rather spend a whole day with your ex than speak in front of a crowd or network at a large event, take time to practice your talking points or “pitch.” Practice in front of your mom, friends, a mirror, and your dog. Just practice until it starts to feel natural or until you stop feeling nauseated. Whichever comes first.
I probably struggle with this one the most. Remember when I was talking about class participation? Well, to me it’s a form of archaic torture—one in which I was forced to participate in many of my college classes. That, and class presentations.
Honestly, I’m surprised I don’t need therapy from the trauma.
I thought public speaking was something I would never be good at; I thought my ears would flush bright red every time I had to answer a question in class or hurry my way through a 15 minute PowerPoint.
But each time I did it, I got a little better, slightly more comfortable. And I mean slightly.
While I will forever hold a grudge against those who made me present my thoughts to my peers in a spoken fashion, and I do still get nervous about public speaking, I’ve learned that facing your fears and practicing your little tushie off does wonders.
15 | “LET’S BLOW THIS POPSICLE STAND”
You don’t have to attend lame events if that’s not your scene. You can literally network anywhere. Try going to an event for a hobby you enjoy—you’ll already have something in common with the other people in attendance and you’ll widen your circle much faster.
Traditional networking events and cocktail mixers often cater to an older demographic and lack any sort of originality or liveliness. However, a bar hop is on the other end of the spectrum and might be a little too…entertaining.
Find your happy medium, whether that’s a 5K race or a cooking lesson in your city. Always keep an open mind about places to meet new, potential professional acquaintances. Your only limit is how willing you are to be the one who makes the first move.
Practice makes decent—here are 15 ways to network more confidently + successfully Click To Tweet
Read this next: 5 Life Lessons They Don’t Teach You in College
More posts for introverts…
Are you a fellow introvert—one of my people? How do you feel about networking? Were these tips helpful for you? Let me know in the comments below or if you use any of these ideas, tweet me your results at your next networking event—I’d love to cheer you on.
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