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Figuring out how to network presents difficulties for all of us, particularly introverts. If socializing tires or intimidates you, you may feel unsure of what improving your networking skills will take.
Will you need to assume a different personality? Are introverts at a disadvantage here?
Fortunately, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding "No!" Introverts have unique strengths they can put toward mastering networking. Networking takes work for introverts, but it is worth it.
Read on to learn tips on how introverts can more effectively approach networking.
Why are introverts good at networking?
Introverts' qualities work in their favor in the networking arena. Good listeners who prefer to give others space rather than hog the spotlight have an advantage. Networking requires receptiveness to others' ideas and willingness to listen.
As an introvert, you likely dislike small talk and insincere interactions. You might prefer to commit to interactions you find meaningful. When you speak to others, your investment in the interaction comes across.
People appreciate this genuineness more than insincere jockeying for exposure or attention.
Why should I learn to network?
Learning how to network may not seem appealing at first. But networking can offer you benefits, including:
More "weak-tie" friendships, which offer more potential professional opportunities
More learning opportunities
Career advice and professional support
Your network can make it easier to advance professionally than if you were alone.
Check out our networking tips to learn how to get better at this essential skill.
How to network online and in person: An introvert's guide
1. You don't need to pretend to be an extrovert.
The idea that introverts must create an extroverted false self to successfully network is outdated and harmful. Forcing yourself to be extroverted can lead to problems such as imposter syndrome and burnout. It can also read as phony to others.
Embrace your authentic self for the best results.
2. Network virtually.
Networking skills extend to the digital realm. If you don't always enjoy in-person socializing, you can make networking easier by using professional networking sites and social media to share your work and connect with others. Introverts may find online networking less draining and easier to take at their pace.
Huge events aren't for everyone, especially introverts who may suffer from anxiety issues. Remember that you don't need to force yourself to attend optional large-scale events to network successfully.
Forcing yourself to attend these events can take up time you could spend networking in more comfortable settings.
4. If it's an in-person event, bring a "buddy."
Bringing a work or personal friend can make it easier to avoid feelings of awkwardness or boredom at in-person events.
If you have a buddy with you, you have a backup conversation partner for periods spent waiting for an interesting or meaningful new connection to arise. And if your friend is outgoing and can take the lead on introducing you to others, all the better.
5. Look for other introverts.
When arriving in any networking setting, keep your eyes peeled for fellow introverts. Who seems to be at the periphery, keeping a low profile? Who's speaking less and listening more? You may find these people easier to approach.
6. Arrive early.
It can also help to arrive at events early. There are fewer people, and attendees are still seeking conversational partners. Approaching a lone person may feel less intimidating than diving into an active conversation.
People who show up early may be more serious-minded and likely to prefer genuine conversations.
7. Set intentions and goals beforehand.
You can improve the outcomes of attending events by defining your intentions and goals ahead of time, such as:
Focusing on genuine interactions
Talking to two to three people per event
Leaving early so you don't get overwhelmed
Think about what you hope to learn or gain from events or people. Practice interactions — such as introducing yourself or summarizing your role — in advance.
8. Realize that most people feel the same way you do.
You would be surprised how many extroverts find conversing with strangers difficult! Virtually anyone can feel self-conscious and uncomfortable socially. Many networking event attendees hope that someone will approach them. Take the leap and try approaching first.
9. Know yourself, and set reasonable expectations.
Be aware of your limitations and take care of yourself. If you're at capacity, excuse yourself and regroup. If you strive to exceed your limitations and end up miserable, you'll struggle to form connections and network effectively.
Is there somebody you're interested in meeting or learning from? Don't hesitate to ask a mutual connection for a warm introduction. Introductions are just another form of social lubricant that makes it easier to get started on a positive note with strangers.
11. Hang out on the outskirts.
There's a lot to be said for staying out of the spotlight. Most in-person events feature less active areas at the sidelines where people can recharge. This is where you're likely to meet like-minded individuals.
12. Don't pressure yourself to get it perfect.
Don't be hard on yourself if you occasionally hit wrong notes when trying to network. Occasionally, you can build a possible connection up in your mind as important, and it doesn't happen. It's possible to not click with certain people through no fault of your own.
Move forward and stay optimistic.
13. Accept that it's okay and normal to have nerves.
It's okay to feel slightly nervous about networking. Introverts and extroverts alike grapple with nerves sometimes. Approaching interactions confidently and not sweating the small things can go a long way when networking.
Remember to treat yourself with kindness and withhold judgment from yourself and others.