Professional Networking for Introverts (Or People Who Just Don’t Feel Like Doing It)
By Michele Richardson
Before diving into professional networking strategies, let’s debunk a few myths about introverts:
- Myth:Introverts don’t like people.
- Myth:Introverts are naturally shy.
- Myth:Introverts don’t like talking.
If you’ve ever been classified as an introvert, you’ve probably encountered these myths before. Of course, it may be true that you have shy tendencies and don’t enjoy being around or talking to people, but that has little to do with your introversion.
The fact is an introvert is drained by being around other people and energized by alone time. This doesn’t mean you can’t succeed at professional networking. You may just need a different approach than your extroverted counterparts. Here are two ways to get started.
Connect with people online.
It’s commonly assumed that to succeed in professional networking you need to be a “people person,” or someone who thrives on high-energy interaction with others. In reality, this is a skill that even extroverts can find challenging. If the idea of starting a face-to-face conversation out of thin air worries you, then connecting with people online is a great way to get started.
Your first step is to create an online presence that best expresses your personal brand. From there, reach out to people you already know in real life. Often those connections are the easiest when you’re getting started. As you become accustomed to building relationships online, you may consider asking people in your network for introductions or referrals. A good place to do this is LinkedIn, where you can easily see your connections and the degree of separation between you and someone you want to meet.
Keep in mind that, for introverts, connecting with people online can be just as draining as face-to-face interactions. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of information that floods your social networks and email inbox. Be mindful of your energy and develop a strategy for using social networking in doses that you can manage.
Connect with people in person.
Online networking is very effective, but don’t get stuck using it as the sole means of growing your professional network. You may miss out on opportunities to connect with people who aren’t active online. At some point, you will need to interact with people – one-on-one or in large groups. To be effective in those situations, you need a game plan.
Start by doing your homework. Most introverts don’t like to be put on the spot and need time to think through their responses. If you’re planning to attend a professional networking event, gather as much information as you can about the organization hosting, the venue and the people expected to attend. Then, pre-plan your conversation strategy, perhaps coming up with a few responses to common networking questions like: What do you do? or What brings you to this event? Also, be ready to respond to unexpected questions; for example, “That’s a great question. Give me a few minutes to think about it, and in the meantime, tell me a bit more about what you do.”
Another good strategy is to arrive early. Whether you’re meeting a person one-on-one for coffee or you’re attending a large function, arriving ahead of schedule offers two major benefits: 1) you have time to calm any anxieties, and 2) you have alone time to fill up your energy reserves. Use the time to write down your thoughts, to meditate or to take whatever steps you need to recharge your battery before the meeting.
Professional networking is a necessity to grow your career, so whether your apprehension about it comes from being an introvert or just not wanting to do it, use these ideas to get over it and just do it!
You can learn more about the Power of Networking in CTU’s new e-book: download it now.
A seasoned HR/organization development professional turned copywriter in 2005, Michele Richardson specializes in content strategy and writing for the digital world. When she’s not working or writing, you can find her curled up with a book and cup of Americano or training for her next half-marathon. Catch up with her on Google+ or Twitter.
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Image Credit: Flickr/TEDx SF