Networking as an introvert can be challenging. Introverts typically get their energy from within and need time to recalibrate after hanging out with people, whether socially or professionally. The good news is there are several strategies that introverts can use to step out of their comfort zones and embrace networking without feeling overwhelmed. Here are 12 of the most effective.
1. Accept Your Introversion
Being an introvert is a normal, natural, and valuable personality trait. Introverts tend to be thoughtful observers, great listeners, and deep thinkers. So, if you’re an introvert, rather than thinking you need to overhaul your personality, embrace your introversion! Accept your traits as strengths and use them to your advantage when networking. This mindset shift will help you to reframe networking as an opportunity for genuine connections and learning. Focus on what you can contribute and the potential insights and knowledge you can gain.
2. Start Small
Large in-person conferences and events can cause introverts a lot of stress and anxiety. So, instead of staring big like that, begin by networking internally, attending smaller networking events or meeting individuals one-on-one over coffee or lunch. This more personal approach will likely make you feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed, allowing you to engage in deeper conversations.
3. Prepare in Advance
Make sure to research the networking event or people you'll be meeting beforehand. Doing so may give you some talking points and alleviate some anxiety. Additionally, having prepared topics, icebreakers, or questions in mind can help you start and engage in conversations. If necessary, rehearse some statements or a pitch about your work before you begin socializing.
4. Reach Out Beforehand
If the networking event organizer has an event messaging system in place, consider using it to reach out to a few people beforehand. First, check out the participant list and message a few of the people you'd like to connect with. Then, send them a personal message asking if you can meet with them one-on-one before, during, or after the event. Knowing who you'll be meeting or chatting with removes some anxiety and will help you prepare what you want to discuss.
5. Arrive Early
Consider arriving earlier at networking events to familiarize yourself with the setup and connect with other early birds. The chances are that they are like-minded and may also be introverts looking for lone people to talk to instead of intimidating large groups of people. If you connect with someone you feel comfortable with before the event, sit with them or catch up with them occasionally throughout the event.
6. Be Cognizant Of Your Non-Verbal Cues
As an introvert, you may feel challenged or uncomfortable at a networking event. As uncomfortable as you may feel, keep an eye on your body language and other non-verbal cues that might deter people from approaching you, such as crossed arms or obviously hanging back and looking freaked out. Instead, try to look relaxed, smile, and initiate conversations with warm energy.
7. Seek Common Interests
A helpful tactic for introverts is to seek out people with common interests or topics they feel comfortable discussing. Examples include hobbies, professional interests, and current events. When you’re interested in a subject, the conversation will flow easier, helping you make connections. You can also look for another introvert and chat with them about a topic you have in common.
8. Take Breaks and Recharge
It's normal for introverts to feel exhausted or overwhelmed by constant socialization, so look after yourself and take a break. It's essential to recognize your limits and plan to recharge by taking a break before you become overwhelmed. For example, try taking periodic breaks at networking events, like excusing yourself for 10 minutes to get fresh air or grabbing a coffee by yourself. Enforcing this type of self-care will help you recharge and give you the energy to engage with others.
9. Give Yourself a Pep-Talk
Introverts are often very critical of themselves because they tend to feel out of place or inept at social gatherings. However, going to a networking event with a negative mindset will not help matters. Instead, introverts should avoid listening to their inner critics and instead focus on positive statements such as, "I deserve to be here," "I’m qualified to be here," and "I'm an interesting person."
10. Don't Hide Behind Your Phone
Technology as a communication tool has become a crucial part of the working world, especially as Gen Z enters the workforce. However, hiding behind your phone at an in-person networking event isn’t going to endear you to anyone—no matter what generation they’re from. Yes, you might look busy, but you’ll also look rude. The point of a networking event is to make contacts and to interact. If you're using your phone as a distraction, the chances are that people will not engage with you readily.
11. Take Advantage of Digital Networking
Online platforms can be valuable networking tools for introverts, as they allow you to connect with others at your own pace and can be less intimidating. Try engaging in industry-specific forums and virtual events, or join professional groups on social media platforms. In this way, you can build rapport without needing to introduce yourself in person. However, remember it's not ideal to rely solely on remote or digital networking, as even introverts need social interaction at times.
12. Plan Ahead
It's always an excellent plan to keep in contact with the connections you met at a networking event, whether you're introverted or extroverted. However, it's beneficial for introverts to have a plan, as they can sometimes be so enthused about making it through the event (or utterly exhausted) they forget to follow up with their new contacts.
You can reconnect with your new contacts by following up after the event with an email or phone call. Alternatively, follow them on social media if you have their business card or social media details. Make a few notes about the people you met to make reconnecting with them more personalized. Building and maintaining relationships requires ongoing effort, so invest in nurturing your connections over time.
Kristie Wright is an experienced freelance writer who covers topics on logistics, finance, and management, mostly catering to small businesses and sole proprietors. When she’s not typing away at her keyboard, Kristie enjoys roasting her own coffee and is an avid tabletop gamer.
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