Just receiving an invite to a networking event can be enough to raise stress levels and elicit a sense of dread in an introverted professional. If you’re an introvert who constantly avoids networking events, however, you’re missing out on some great opportunities.
In my experience matching talented professionals with leading companies, I’ve seen simple networking efforts lead to new business, career advancement and valuable professional connections. Instead of staying home – or attending and setting up camp in the corner with your smartphone – take a look at the following strategies that lead to more successful networking for introverts.
Seek Out Small Groups and One-On-One Conversations
Do you get nervous when you walk into a room with a large group of people? Take a moment and remember that you won’t have to talk with all of them at once. Like many overwhelming things in life, that big crowd can be broken down into more manageable parts. If you see a group of two or three – or better yet a person standing alone – go introduce yourself. You’ll not only be more comfortable in a small group situation, but you’re also more likely to have productive, meaningful exchanges.
Practice Talking About Yourself
If you avoid sharing information about yourself or if you rush through descriptions of what you do, you’re missing out on the primary benefit of networking. In other words, you might as well have stayed on your couch with a book. Before you head to your next happy hour, practice answering a few common questions about yourself and giving thoughtful responses that are longer than just a handful of words. When you’re in front of others, you’ll be less likely to speed through or skip over a great opportunity for personal exposure.
Bring a Colleague
Instead of silently envying your extroverted coworker’s natural networking abilities, ask him to join you at your next event. Not only are you likely to meet more people, but you can think of your colleague as a “home base” to return to if you become overwhelmed. Just be sure you’re not clinging to your coworker’s side at the expense of improving your own networking skills.
Have a Plan
Do your eyes glaze over after more than an hour at a networking event? The simple solution is to plan your exit before you hit a wall. Always determine how long you’re going to stay at an event, and commit to making the most of this time. You’ll be much more productive if you know that you’ll be back home and enjoying your own company by 10:00 PM.
If you have a time limit in place but you find yourself counting down the minutes instead of being productive, incorporate a goal into your plan. Challenge yourself to speak with at least seven people and hand out fifteen business cards, for example, before the event ends.
Take Care of Yourself
Even if you follow these introvert networking tips, you may still leave events feeling drained. Instead of fighting your personality, give yourself permission to be selective about your attendance. Make note of what types of networking sessions work best for you (morning vs. evening, meals vs. happy hours, etc.), and only commit to attending those.
Understand that you might also need to plan an introvert-friendly escape after a networking session. Taking time for yourself allows you to recharge and gets you ready to tackle the next event.
If you’re an introvert, what other strategies do you use to enhance your networking? Comment below and share your personal networking tips with others.