As someone on the introverted end of the personality scale, I find it challenging to network. However, in today’s world networking is increasingly important. You need to be able to connect with others on a personal level, whether you are online or offline. In fact, one of the ways I find high-paying freelance jobs is through my networking efforts and word of mouth.
When I make the effort to network effectively, in spite of my difficulties, my business flourishes.
Here are 5 things I’ve found helpful when networking as an introvert:
1. Start Online
Most of my initial connections for my business were online. Thanks to social media, it’s possible to network no matter where you are. Your location behind a computer screen can provide you with a bit of confidence, and the ability to practice some techniques and get comfortable with your personal branding.
Once you have established who you are online, it’s a little bit easier to transition to the offline world. When I first started networking as an introvert it helped a lot that I could approach people I felt that I “knew” through our online encounters. It made the transition from online to offline a little smoother.
2. Recharge Ahead of Time
As an introvert, I need alone time to recharge. At the very least, I need time to sit quietly with someone I’m comfortable with and trust — and who won’t burden me with unnecessary chit-chat. If you know you are going to a networking event, take the time to charge up. Introverts find many social situations draining, so you’ll want to be as energized and fresh as possible before you go to the event.
When I attend conferences, I make it a point to take some time for myself each day to recharge before I head back into the thick of things. I’ve even, on occasion, retreated to a quiet corner to get away from the networking and gather myself for another hour. Know your needs, and be sure to attend to them when you know you’re going to be networking.
3. Stick with an Extrovert
Another strategy I use is to stick with an extrovert. If you want to meet people, allowing yourself to be pulled along in the wake of an extrovert can help. My business partner is extroverted, and I usually stick with him when we’re at the same conferences. This eases some of my tension and anxiety when it comes to meeting new people. He performs the introductions and things can move a little more naturally from there. While you still have to do some of the work, it can be a little smoother and little less draining to have someone there to help support you.
4. Adopt Some Outgoing Traits
I can be very social when I’m with a small group of people that I know, like, and trust. Networking as an introvert is another beast altogether. However, I do try to adopt some outgoing traits in these situations. I force myself to greet people and introduce myself. When I have something to say, I make sure to speak up. While these moves can be challenging, you never really grow unless you step outside your comfort zone. Practice getting outside your comfort zone, and set goals for yourself. Tell yourself you will meet two new people at your next networking event. Then, up that to three or four for the event after that.
5. Practice Your Elevator Pitch
Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what to say when you are in a networking situation. Think about what you will say ahead of time. Create an elevator pitch that succinctly tells others what you do. Practice this pitch so that you can explain yourself smoothly. You can even think of a few other things to add as follow-ups. And don’t forget to ask others about themselves.
One of the great things about networking as an introvert is that you can listen. If you show interest and get the other person talking, they are more likely to remember the conversation favorably. You don’t have to put much effort in, other than introducing yourself and then listening, and the other person is likely to remember you fondly.