An Introverts Guide to Networking
Environments that are loud and crowded like most networking events often make me anxious, awkward and so exhausted that I find myself wishing I could teleport home.
Fellow introverts: can you relate?
According to Susan Cain, every introverts BFF and author of the book Quiet, one out of two or three people you know are introverts – meaning, there’s a very strong chance that you feel the same way as I do about networking.
The “Work” in Networking
Networking is a challenge for me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it. Who wouldn’t enjoy meeting people with similar career interests, passions or goals?! I get to connect with new friends, maybe learn new industry knowledge and possibly open up career channels and opportunities I wouldn’t know existed before. The challenge is that it doesn’t come effortlessly to me. I think they got it spot on when they called it “networking”. Because it’s work - and it’s exhausting.
I avoided networking in the past because of my so called “lone wolf” tendencies. But realizing the potential benefits networking can have for my career, and never being one to shy away from a challenge, I put together four strategies that I now use to reframe networking into something that feels more natural and valuable to me (a painfully introverted person).
Ditch the Misconceptions
A few common misconceptions about introverts: we’re shy, quiet, don’t like to talk a lot and need to be rescued from social situations.
The reality: being an introvert has nothing to do with how much you like spending time with others. It’s about how you respond to stimulation - in this case social stimulation. Basically, no matter how socially skilled we are or how much fun we have at parties, we’re inherently wired with a higher sensitivity to our environments than extraverts. This means that loud crowded events send our introvert brains into dopamine overload, leaving us with low energy and the need to recharge alone.
If you’re curious to learn more about introversion, Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution website is basically a mecca of introverts.
Appreciate & Acknowledge the Way You Recharge
Being able to understand and accept how I lose and rebuild my energy was a game changer for me. Many people believe that extroverts, being energized and not exhausted by hits of dopamine in the brain, have a built-in advantage to networking. But I believe that having this awareness of my personality has allowed me to strategically use my introversion to choose my networking opportunities wisely and therefore become a better networker.
For example, if I’m going to a networking event on Saturday that I know will stretch my comfort zone, I wont plan on going to a party or hosting a get-together on Friday night. Instead I’ll spend my night reading, walking my dog, or having dinner with someone whose conversation helps to re-energize me – anything that has a proven track record of making me feel energized.
Building in a cushion of time and space around a networking event, both before and after, helps me maintain my energy in a more balanced and healthy way, allowing me to enjoy myself more while socializing.
Attending large events, parties and conferences isn’t the only way to network. I use online networking platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to connect with colleagues and industry experts from the comfort of my own home. Whether you’re an introvert or a remote worker (or both, like me) this is a great way to learn new resources and grow a network.
Find an online community that interests you. Join forums and groups where you can ask questions, comment and be a part of the conversation. For example, I’m in the business of HR, so one of the groups I’m a part of is Linked: HR. I meet other people in the industry and get to be a part of current conversations and hot topics trending in HR while also being able to disconnect and leave anytime with the click of a button.
And for the introverts that are interested in a face-to-face conversation, we can look for and create scenarios where we can meet people in more intimate, less socially stimulating settings. Here’s one example: one of your connections posts a really interesting article. Send them a friendly email and ask if they’d like to grab a coffee or have lunch and discuss the article further.
I took a hard look at the definition of networking. While the by-product of networking is building career connections with the intention of creating new opportunities, at its root networking is simply relationship-building. So whatever way you go about it - it starts with meeting someone new, starting a conversation and creating a real relationship.
Network with Intention
Let’s talk about that last line. REAL relationships. In my opinion, it’s always quality over quantity. The consensus is that extroverts have a built-in advantage because they might enjoy networking more than introverts and therefore probably do it more often. But intentional networking can yield the same if not better results.
Once you surpass 500 connections on LinkedIn you basically get a gold star that labels you as connected and credible, right? Although I agree that it’s important to strive for a large and diverse network I also believe that our network shouldn’t ONLY be measured in numbers. We should also measure the value of the relationships that we build with people we share our passions with. More importantly: interesting people we trust, like and respect.
Networking is important. You won’t find many people who will tell you otherwise. Whether you’re fresh out of school, job hunting, or been employed, bum in the seat at the same company for years, building relationships and gaining industry knowledge can elevate your career to another level that you may not find if you choose the ‘lone wolf’ path that I often gravitate towards as an introvert.
During my exploration into the world of introversion and its relationship with networking I learned that even the most committed introverts such as myself can grow a meaningful network.
And with that being said, connect with me on LinkedIn ;)