Networking for introverts can be difficult. I used to think introverts were shy and not known to be outgoing and personable. I didn’t think they would make good trainers or public speakers or leaders for that matter. Was I ever wrong! An introvert can be and do all these things. Contrary to the beliefs of many; not all introverts are shy. Many have great social lives and love being with their friends but just need some time to be alone to “recharge their batteries” afterwards. From Vocabulary.com: “Introverts sometimes avoid large groups of people, feeling more energized by time alone. The opposite of an introvert is an extrovert, who finds energy in interactions with others.”
I remember, years ago, telling a friend how drained I felt after a facilitating a half-day training session and she said, “Well of course! That’s because you are an introvert.” I thought to myself, “really?” How can that be? I’m fairly outgoing and I’ve spent most of my career either training groups or coaching individuals. I do know that I don’t enjoy walking into large groups of people at association or large networking events. When I was younger, I wondered what was wrong with me. It seemed that others were comfortable at large gatherings; the events were full! How wonderfully freeing it was for me to realize that I am an introvert. Some people, after a day of training are energized. Me, I want to go home, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, sit on the couch and watch a little TV or look at stories on my phone. This is how I recharge my batteries. Here’s something I can totally relate to: “Introverts aren’t party poopers; they’re just pooped by the party.” – Dr. Otto Kroeger
So, it really isn’t about how outgoing or personable you are. It has to do with how you get your energy. Are you an introvert? Do you dread the thought of attending large gatherings or networking events? Take the pressure off. Lift the weight right off your shoulders. These tips are for those of us who, after a long day of work, would rather read, take a walk or watch TV than be at a networking event making the effort to meet new people.
- Reframe your view of what networking is. To put it simply, the purpose of networking is to gather information and build relationships. New opportunities, whether they be a job opportunity or new business, are a byproduct of networking. Here is a great definition by my friend Jayne Mattson: “Networking is the proactive process of building genuine relationships with people you know who can connect you to people they know who can provide you with information, advice and more contacts that will help you make good career and business decisions. Remember that building relationships is not just getting what you need but creating a mutual benefit to keep the relationship alive.”
- Don’t go! That’s right. Don’t go unless you have a goal and a strategy. Select events where you can learn something, contribute or reconnect with people you already know who can potentially introduce you to others. Don’t go just because there “may” be someone useful for you to meet. For many introverts, meeting one on one is much easier, more comfortable and more effective. (We’ll talk about this in our networking series, http://careerrings.com/blog/.)
- Become genuinely interested in other people. If you become genuinely interested in other people, they will likely become interested in you. Ask questions about the person, his work or place of work and about industry news and trends. Take the focus off you and give the other person the opportunity to shine. Make introductions, listen and learn and perhaps extend an offer to help. Remember, networking is a two-way street!