For many of us, networking is one of the great necessary evils of the world – or at least of our professional lives. Necessary because in many industries, as you may have heard, “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” and evil because the idea of networking can insight somewhat of a panic for those of us who identify as introverts.
But being an introvert doesn’t mean you have to settle for a career that’s less than you deserve. Not only have some of history’s most respected minds identified as introverts (Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and J.K. Rowling, to name a few), but thanks to a little thing called technology, expanding your professional circle looks very different now than it did just a few years ago.
If the idea of networking evokes visions of nude pantyhose, poly-blend skirt suits, and general feelings of inauthenticity, then perhaps you haven’t found the method of networking that works best for your personality. To get started on the path to success – and honor the behavior that comes most naturally to you – I’ve put together a few tips on networking for introverts:
Acknowledge the importance of building and growing a network.
The first step to resolving a problem is admitting that you have a problem, and this applies in a big way to those of us who might feel reserved about putting ourselves out there. If you hate networking and think the way out is avoiding it all together, think again. Positive networking for anyone, and especially for introverts, is about finding strategies and behaviors that work for you and putting them to use. Which brings us to our next point –
Know yourself, and adapt your behavior accordingly.
Rather than trying to make yourself fit some mold of business success, the key is figuring out what works best for you – and not for anyone else. Think about settings where you’re comfortable and go from there. Next time you want to pick someone’s brain, set up a one-on-one coffee date at a location that makes you feel comfortable. From the start, you’ll feel more confident and at greater ease than you might otherwise.
Positive networking for anyone, and especially for introverts, is about finding strategies and behaviors that work for you …
Don’t underestimate the power of email.
Is there someone you’d like to have as a professional connection? The secret to building an army of powerful business connections is this – email. Sometimes, all it takes to befriend that connection of your dreams or to land that job you’ve been coveting for, like, ever, is a single email. Remember that while it could happen, it’s also unlikely that anyone is going to come to you and offer you the job of your dreams. Take initiative and get in touch with that person or brand you’re dying to know or would love to work for and tell them what you think. You may never hear anything after you send that email, but then again a single email could be the start of your next connection, job, or even friendship.
Attend conferences – your way.
Conferences are great networking opportunities, there’s no denying that. But for those of us who identify as somewhat quieter types, they also have a tendency to be a little on the scary side. Try this: Bring a friend or co-worker to a conference you’ve been eager to attend. Or, scrap that idea all together and sign-up for a virtual conference. Just be sure to stay in touch with your fellow attendees – even if it’s just over Instagram.
Like anything in life, getting by professionally as an introvert just requires finding what works for you. It might be following the ideas here, or it might be completely different. Either way, know yourself, figure out a few go-to networking tools, and you’ll be set for networking success. No pantyhose required.
Introverts: Need more support? I recommend Susan Cain’s Quite: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Read, and take solace in knowing that there are a lot of us out there.
Are you an introvert? How have you used this as a strength in the workplace?
Image via Madison Holmlund