Thursday night 6pm – networking. If your heart sinks when you see that entry in you diary, maybe you’re an introvert, like me. And maybe you hate networking. But you do it, because you ‘need’ to do it for work or business.
This is for you – a compilation of my best tips from years of personal experience of how to enjoy networking even if you are an introvert.
We have all read and heard so many times that networking in the business world is “good” for you because it helps to raise your profile, keeps you in touch with trends in your sector, forges relationships, and you will get fresh ideas and inspiration. This is true regardless of whether you work for a big corporate or you are a small business owner. But what if you’re an introvert? How do you learn to network? Is it possible to network AND enjoy it? What if you don’t want get noticed? What if the thought of networking puts knots in your stomach? What if you just don’t enjoy those big group interactions?
Well face facts – if you want to get on in your career or expand your business, you need to get over the fear of networking. As an introvert myself, here are some top tips that I picked up along the way to make networking less stressful.
- First of all, networking does not just have to be about the big events. If you feel more comfortable building relationships in smaller groups, it is perfectly feasible to network with just one or two people over a coffee or lunch. But you have to make the effort to contact people and invite them for a coffee.
- Alternatively you can reach out to people and demonstrate your knowledge and experience through LinkedIn forums if you work in a corporate or maybe Facebook is the way to go if you are running a small business offering products or services to individuals. Find the relevant groups to join, follow the discussions and reply to posts where appropriate. Be helpful, be friendly. People will remember you for that.
- Don’t wait until you NEED to network – by then it’s too late.
- If you are attending a larger event – perhaps you’re attending a conference, advance preparation will give you more confidence.
- Find out who else is going to be attending the event – is there a LinkedIn group, is there an online delegate list, ask around in your firm or friends at other firms.
- Chat to people online in advance (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) to establish a relationship and look out for each other on the day.
- Research the other participants. What do you have in common? Have you followed a similar career path? Been to the same university? Crossed paths in other ways?
- Take a friend or a work colleague with you.
- If it seems that everybody is standing in groups talking, and you don’t know how to break into a conversation, stand just outside the circle. You’ll generally find that others will notice you’re there, and widen the circle to let you in.
- Listen to what’s being said. Nod, smile, and make a small comment at the right moments.
- Have some questions in mind: use open questions – for example “what did you think of the panel presentation today” “which speaker did you most enjoy” “what is your team working on at the moment”
- Remember you are NOT the only person feeling nervous or shy. There’ll be others just like you.
- If you see an article that might be of interest or use to somebody that you met, pass it on. It never hurts to be helpful and I firmly believe that what goes around, comes around.
- If it is work event, challenge yourself to talk to at least three people outside of your immediate team.
- Try starting out by attending smaller networking groups and attend regularly so that you to get to know people and have friendly faces each time as well as new ones. When you know a few people, ask them where else they network and try those groups too.
- If you have tried a networking group and hated it, don’t let it put you off all networking groups. Different groups have different ‘cultures’, try a few until you find one you like.
- Small talk ideas – “have you come far?” “is this your first time?” “how did you find out about this networking event”.
And if you’re not an introvert but you see somebody at a networking event, standing to one side, or busy checking their email – do us introverts a favour. Strike up a conversation; bring us into the circle; get us involved. Thank you.
So yes it IS possible to be an introvert AND still enjoy networking. And like everything else in life, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
What about you? Are you an introvert? Share below what’s worked for you. You can always find me networking on Facebook in the The Confident Mother Means Business group.
See you soon.