Since college, the word “networking” was always a dirty word for me.
I was always on the lookout to join a group, become the president or leader of some club, or expand my professional career in some way. Yet I had no idea how to do this thing they call networking until after college. I had heard the term everywhere—from professionals on LinkedIn to class meetings and even from my parents.
They all said the same thing.
“You have to network if you want to be successful.”
“Life is about who you know; don’t be fooled.”
I naively ignored their advice and decided I could do things when and how I wanted—without networking.
As an introvert, I had always associated networking with snake oil salespeople. Even more, it was always presented as something exclusively for extroverts. Being conveniently placed right outside of my comfort zone didn’t help either. And I knew that I wasn’t the best at networking for two reasons:
I wasn’t willing to be pushy just to meet quotas.
I became aware of the fact that I was poor at small talk in high school.
Everything that I had been taught about networking was only partially correct—I needed it, but it was not just for extroverts. Introverts can and do network on many occasions.
Need some help getting started? Here are some excellent resources for initiating conversations and getting “unstuck” in casual conversation: How to Master the Art of Conversation as an Introvert and An Introvert’s Guide to Small Talk: 8 Painless Tips.
3 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Networking as an Introvert
I wished that I viewed introversion or the act of being an introvert as a superpower. A tool that I can use as leverage to maximize my advantage over the other side of talkative and chatty extroverts. I wish I knew about the power of collective insight and creativity that introverts share.
It wasn’t until I started networking that I eventually realized these abilities.
What I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Networking as an Introvert Click To Tweet
Here are some tips:
1 | Realize everybody’s in it for the same thing.
Everybody at networking events is just there to publicize either themselves or their work.
Normally, even the most loquacious extroverts are scared or reticent to initiate the conversation. Out of uneasiness, respect, or a genuine interest to meet new people, extroverts always (or usually) start a conversation with a smile and a (sometimes) brief biography of their life. Many (not all) extroverts realize the power of meeting new people that can serve as a resource for them in the future.
That resource can come in many shapes and sizes. It could be a new job, a best friend, or a referral.
Meeting new people can serve as a valuable resource for your future career. Click To Tweet
On the other hand, for many introverts, getting out of our comfort zone is not something we naturally excel at. For many of us, getting out of our cocoon and genuinely doing what either excites us or frightens us is not something we gravitate toward. That can make networking and meeting new people tricky, but not impossible.
But once you start to realize everybody’s in it for the same thing, you can relax, let your guard down, and let the conversations flow naturally.
2 | Know that everyone is nervous.
Everybody’s a little bit nervous at networking events. It can be hard to gauge who’s being genuine and who just wants to push a product. My goal is to come up with a plan of action for every networking opportunity.
If I’m going to an event, I outline important people that I want to meet and make small talk with. If there’s no particular person or set of people that I’m interested in meeting, I set a goal to network with at least 5-10 people. That way, I can leave the venue feeling accomplished and ready to conquer my next task. If it’s online, I determine my goals for networking with that person upfront.
I’ve learned that networking isn’t just about sales or even just what you have to offer. Sure, you want to add value, but building relationships comes with time. Thinking of networking as a marathon as opposed to a sprint has really helped changed my perspective of networking.
Think of networking as a marathon—not a sprint. Click To Tweet
3 | There are many introverts that network confidently and with success.
For most of my life, I assumed that only extroverts went out and networked.
If you think you’re going to feel uncomfortable or the general thought of going somewhere alone scares you, bring a buddy.
If networking in large groups intimidates you, bring a buddy. Click To Tweet
I see so many people at networking events in groups of two or four that sometimes it’s a little unsettling when I’m alone. Introverts tend to stick together and knowing how to spot a fellow introvert or “introvert club” should be second nature at this point. Don’t be afraid to say hello or introduce yourself. Chances are, they’re probably bored or eager to meet new people as well.
Overall, what I’ve learned about networking after college is that networking can be powerful. It can also be fun, and it’s not only reserved for outgoing people. Anybody can do it!
So, what are you waiting for?
- Get out there and mingle.
- Talk about yourself and your accomplishments.
- Network and conquer all of your fears.
All of your fellow introverts are cheering for you! 🙂
Read more posts on personality:
- 10 Positive Affirmations for Introverted Women
- How to Network as an Introvert—15 Clever Ideas
- How to Unplug from Social Media as an Introvert
- 7 Things Introverts are Tired of Hearing
- 14 Ways Introverts Can Practice Self Care at Work
- Understanding Your Love Language as an Introvert
How do you overcome your fear of networking? What tips have worked for you? Share them below in the comments and help out your introverted friends.
Christian “Chris” Locklayer is the blogger behind The Success Project, a guidebook for young professionals and aspiring entrepreneurs on the go. Her most recent book, #NotAFailure, is an inspirational piece that teaches millennials how to overcome failure. As a young woman, Chris has always had a thirst for knowledge, travel, and apocalyptic endings (think The Walking Dead). In her spare time, Chris loves going on nature walks, reading, and good family time with her boyfriend and their cat, Flora.