Networking guide for Introverts
This article explores the world of networking, and specifically networking for the introverted. The article also discusses the benefits of networking and why introverts need to master this practice. Finally, the article presents in detail, various measures that introverts can take in order to network successfully.
NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS
Networking, whether in the course of job hunting or simply for the creation and growth of professional connections, can be a stressful process. This is true even for the most outgoing and extroverted individuals. For introverts, however, the networking process can be simply paralyzing. Although introverts are creative, considerate, and work well with other people, extroverts seem to have an upper hand when it comes to networking and establishing meaningful or professional connections. For introverts, therefore, it is important to convert the networking process into an enjoyable activity by taking up approaches that work with and not against their personality.
The world is a much harder place for introverts. This is true regardless of whether it is a matter of perception or fact. This is especially so when an introvert is put in a position where they have to move a room. For introverts, attending networking events is like walking on hot coal; it is that scary and uncomfortable.
While it is agreed that shy individuals are at a disadvantage, especially in the business world, little is known about the benefits of being introverted. However, against common perception, a few studies have shown that indeed introverts make better leaders since they are more empathetic and adaptable in work environments, making it quite easy for anybody to relate to them.
But this knowledge does not help you as an introvert the next time it is necessary for you to network at that conference. Do not panic, this article will equip you with various tools that will encourage and boost your ability to network successfully. First let us look at why it is absolutely necessary that you learn the art of networking.
Always remember of the value introverts bring to the table.
WHY YOU NEED TO PERFECT NETWORKING
Human beings naturally thrive on the social interactions that they have with one another. This is why networking has become a necessary tool for our survival in business. Besides this innate need to interact and network, relationships are completely crucial for any business.
It is interesting; however, that most people will assume that getting to know people in their field of business is only necessary for the purpose of acquiring competition related information. This is a wrong perception; there is something of great value to be learnt from everyone. Networking with people regardless of how you relate to them can be extremely beneficial. You might end up learning something very important or even coming up with ideas worth a fortune in the course of those interactions.
Additional reasons why you need to master networking are:
- Opportunity. With networking, you have an avenue to meet new individuals every time you step out. As such, you never know what sort of people you may encounter and what those individuals may have to offer. Prospects for expanding your business or even jolting a startup are all around you if you just put yourself out there and take a chance. Networking does not cost you anything but can earn you more than you possibly imagined.
- Exposure. Networking also works to get your business, skill, value etc discovered by the world. Getting the world around you to understand the value that you have to offer demands exposure and networking does exactly that for you. For example, assume that you are an artist who just created a beautiful and unique product or that you are an entrepreneur with a brilliant business idea. In any case, interacting and building relationships with many people will increase your chances of breaking through into your field of specialty. Even interacting with people who are not in your field may be beneficial; those people may end up talking to other people who happen to be in your field about you. So do not hesitate, do not discriminate, make connections and build relations everywhere.
- Learning and Growth. Additionally, networking with others is not only geared for you to share yourself with the world. Networking also guarantees that you will come into contact with individuals with whom you can exchange ideas and learn from, hence promoting your growth as well as that of your business. If you are lucky, you will even meet someone whose idea is compatible and complimentary to yours and you may end up gaining a valuable partner.
- Accruing Benefits. When you network and create numerous relationships, it breeds new business, which in turn leads to a growth in network, which in turn breeds more business. The cycle is recurring; you may not see the results in an instance but the doors soon begin to open. Therefore, adopt a mentality of treating every contact with the same level of seriousness because you never know which contact might actually begin trigger a snowball effect of success for you.
- Relationships. I am sure you have encountered the phrase ‘It is not about what you know but who you know’. In networking, however, it is more about who knows you, but that is not the point. The point is that the phrase is true. I know, it is not fair, I agree. But this is exactly why networking is so necessary for you and your business. The more connections and relationships you establish, the more people you will have encountered and this increases your chances of meeting the right people. The relationships you establish along the way may also end up being very beneficial at different levels in the future. Stay in contact with all of the people you build connections with in networking events and it will avail a good group of individuals to draw from in your future endeavors.
- Career Advancement. Most job positions these days are not advertised and, therefore, if you want a chance at a promotion or even that dream job, you have to create a vast network that keeps you in the loop when career opportunities avail themselves. People will normally recommend the people that they like; the people that they feel a connection with. So, even though you have not interacted directly with your employer for that dream job, you may have networked with a person who would give you the heads up immediately the opportunity arose.
HOW TO NETWORK AS AN INTROVERT
As mentioned earlier, networking is a stressful activity. It is also time consuming and demands a great deal of patience in order to reap its benefits. Networking is especially hard for introverts, but this does not mean that being an introvert seals your fate and diagnoses you as completely handicapped in networking. There are several measures you can take to make the networking process much less stressful and, quite possibly, easy and natural for you.
Find a Personal Networking Style
The biggest mistake you can make as an introvert is try to emulate the manner in which an extrovert networks. Additionally, you should not try to emulate another introvert’s mode of networking. Every person, and especially introverts should find their own unique networking approach. An approach that they are the most comfortable in and that precisely matches their particular personality.
As a first step, find small networking events and then build your way up to larger ones. This is for the purpose of eliminating the feeling of being overwhelmed. Remember, do not pretend to be who you are not during the networking process. People can normally read ‘vibes’ and it may be helpful for you to be coming off as up front and honest. This may even include subtly getting comfortable in your discomfort and letting it show a little bit. This may even relax you some more because the pressure to pretend is removed.
Therefore, being authentic and natural is the first step and may actually help you create real and meaningful connections with the individuals you come across.
Take it Slow
As much as this article emphasizes volume in networking, volume may be overwhelming for the introvert. For the best chance of successfully mastering networking, focus on making the little steps. Do not expect to see excellent results as soon as you have began. As an introvert, focus on getting through the initial one or two networking events, one at a time; then the next two, without pressuring yourself to rack up as many events as you can under your belt. Breaking down your networking progress should be structured on small but solid steps that gradually strengthen your abilities. Do not get caught up in the line of thought that tells you that you have not attended enough events yet. Few but successful networking events for you are far more important than a hundred mediocre ones.
This perception should also apply to the results you expect from your efforts. Many ordinary networking guides will propose that you need to make two connections from each person they encounter. As an introvert, I understand that you may be easily discouraged in networking if these are not the results you realize. Remember, this is just another person’s opinion and should not in any way serve to discourage or frustrate your efforts.
Make Contact in Advance
Prior to a networking event, acquire a list of the people who will be in attendance, identify the people you will be most interested in meeting, and make contact with them. You could introduce yourself via email about two days prior to the event and explain why you would like to establish a connection with the person.
For example, if they happen to be a trend setter in your field of business, you could explain that you are in the same field as they are, and that you are inspired by their work and you would like to know them better and get pointers for your own establishment. As an ice breaker, do your research on the persons you intend to interact with and find common interests that you can use to keep conversation fluid.
A networking event is different from an interview where you wait for prompts from the panel of interviewers. Networking means being the host and not the guest; you are in control of the interaction. Creating clear goals of what you want to draw from each interaction can assist you in guiding the conversation and planning for various possible outcomes.
As a primary goal; talk about yourself, what you are looking for, and the sort of help you are seeking. On the other hand, have your questions ready for the parties you plan to interact with; write them down and rehearse them if necessary. Ensure that you are clear on the expected outcome of each networking event as well as each interaction. The feeling of being prepared for your interactions chases away feelings of anxiety and fear out of the process of networking for you.
As a secondary goal, just as mentioned above, rehearse small talk, ice breakers, and even questions that might be posed to you and the responses you would give. This sort of practice can help you understand how you could steer conversations during your interactions for a favorable outcome.
Give Interaction Quality Priority
Most professional networking is engineered to focus on the pursuit of employment, which is what makes networking awkward in most cases. Awkwardness is kryptonite for introverts. For this reason, ensure that you broaden your conversations during interactions and avoid centering them on solicitation of employment. Even where the purpose of the interaction is actually to get employment, avoid directly asking for it because it can be a mood killer for the person on the other end.
People want to feel that they have made a meaningful connection and that the interaction could be the beginning of a relationship; focuses on evoking a connected feeling in the people you interact with. Nobody wants to spend time and, much less, give an opportunity to a person who perceives them only as a means to an end.
A good approach, for example, would be talking about projects you have handled in the past that helped you hone and develop certain skill sets or allowed you to learn a different language. Most introverts are good at person to person conversations; therefore, take advantage of each networking opportunity and develop a meaningful connection as opposed to simply focusing on your goal. Quality over Quantity.
Change your Mind Set
If simply hearing the word ‘networking’ makes your heart skip a beat, you should change that mindset. The purpose of networking is not to put you under the gun but to avail opportunities for your personal advancement or business’s advancement. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by events that demand networking, train yourself to look forward to the opportunities that may avail themselves as a result.
Condition yourself to enjoy networking events and approach each with enthusiasm instead of apathy. If you happen to get nervous even after altering your mindset, just focus on your end goal and let it drive you instead. Once you have accomplished your goal, which is making several meaningful connections, allow yourself to leave the event. For introverts, staying too long may leave you burnt out and de-motivate you from attending future events.
Demonstrate Passion and Skill
Introverts do not openly show their passions and talents as much as extroverted individuals do. Therefore, it is important for you to come up with alternative ways for you to express the things that get you excited professionally and to talk about your achievements as well as your ambitions.
And because introverts are good at person to person communication, individual networking encounters may be the perfect opportunity to pour your heart out and actually show the person who you are. This kind of sincerity and display of passion will enable you to create a real connection with your audience, which will lead to a long lasting and meaningful relationship.
Make Use of Technology
Platforms such as LinkedIn have transformed the manner in which people connect and may be a perfect tool for introverts who are struggling in in-person networking. Although technology is no substitute to in-person networking, it is an excellent way for you to target individuals you would like to network with.
Therefore, make use of the tools that technology has availed and do your homework. Doing research on potential subjects of your interactions can greatly reduce the anxiety leading up to the actual interactions. In addition, this is a way of identifying common interests that could be used as great ice breakers and conversation sustainers.
Apart from conducting research on the persons you want to interact with, you can create a website, upload your portfolio, and highlight your professional accomplishments. This will avail individuals you mean to form a network with the opportunity learn more about you prior to your actual meeting. Hence, a connection may already have been established before the meeting, taking some of the pressure off you.
Take Time to Recharge
As mentioned above, for an introvert, numerous back-to-back meetings in networking events can be draining. Introverts require a substantial amount of personal time to recharge before they can give themselves back to the world.
If possible, allow yourself sufficient time between networking events in order to recharge, reflect, and go back rejuvenated. This practice can even be incorporated in between the same networking event, where you can take a short quiet walk away from the crowd; take a short break in your car and so forth.
Don’t try to be Perfect
As an introvert you have the tendency to beat yourself up and go over social situations that an extrovert would pay no attention to. This trait reinforces the anxiety and fear that comes along with networking; it is a trait that should be filtered out.
Remember that you do not have to be perfect in human interactions. It is completely natural for some interactions to go extremely well and for others to go, not so well. Understand that even the interactions that do not exactly pan out how you wanted them to, are learning experiences for your future networking interactions.
Therefore, relax and do not let a disappointing encounter deter your zeal and enthusiasm to establish a strong vast network.
TO SUM UP
It is agreed that networking is a powerful marketing tactic that accelerates and sustains any individual’s or business’s success. Ask any successful business, politician, local leader, or salesperson which skill has enabled them to amass the following that they have and excel in their career and the answer may boil down to a single term; networking. Networking is all about establishing connections and building long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. However, it is not about who you know when it comes to networking, but who knows you. It is harder for introverts to expose themselves and get themselves out there; this is why networking is harder for introverts as opposed to their extroverted counterparts.
We are constantly confronted with numerous advertisements, offers, emails, and sales pitches. Out of these millions of marketing efforts the most successful ones end up accomplishing the purpose they were set out for because of the networking efforts that went before them. Personal relations allow you and your business to stand out and rise above the competition.
Two main lessons we can take away from the practice of networking are that;
- Relationships are catalyst for success.
- People are inclined to do business with people they have a real and meaningful connection with.
These are also the reasons why introverts should strive to perfect the art of networking. However, as an introvert, if despite all your efforts you are of the opinion that you did not make a satisfactory impression in your networking interactions or events, do not be mortified. The most important thing is that you keep practicing and applying the measures that improve your ability to network successfully and more comfortably. In order to attain success in your personal life as well as in your business, you must connect with people continuously, cultivate relationships, and build a strong intricate network; therefore, introverts cannot afford to shy away from networking.
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