How to Network Effectively as an Introvert
It took me a long time in life to be able to admit that I am an introvert and be OK with it. I spent a lot of energy in my teens and early twenties trying to be something other than I am. Now that I’m so much older and wiser (HAHA), I embrace these tendencies.
Then came business school, and with it, the need to get to know 100 new people and to network with anyone and everyone. While I can be a proud introvert, networking remains something I still run from. It is a necessary evil; the bane of my business development aspirations. I have, however, developed a few strategies that better equip me to face this monster. Thanks to these, even I can leave a networking event with a smile on my face!
Have a Plan
When attending a networking event, figure out ahead of time which companies or people you want to talk to and the message you want to get across. Think of this as your ‘elevator pitch’. If you were in an elevator for 30 seconds with your person of interest, what would you want them to know about you? Once you’ve got your pitch down, practice it with a friend or family member. Then at the event, talk to your ‘less important’ targets first, while you are warming up. This is a perfect time to save the best for last!
Have a Buddy
Networking is a good reason to formally or informally team up with someone to ‘attack’ together. It is always less scary to approach a company representative with a buddy and alternate asking questions, than it is to approach alone. Form a strategy with your buddy — who will ask the first question, who will close the conversation, etc. Afterwards, debrief with your buddy to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Then, go talk to someone else!
Have a Goal
Before the event, set a time limit or number of resumes to hand out before you get to go home. You may also aim to talk to five people or give out ten business cards. Setting a goal will ease your mind by giving yourself an objective, rather than facing two hours of talking with strangers. You will feel a sense of accomplishment when you reach your goal, and have something measurable against which to evaluate your performance. Next time, set your goal just a little bit higher to encourage yourself to continuously improve.
Remember that you may not get the hang of it at the first event or even the first three. But keep trying! Networking, like any skill, takes practice. If you consciously work at it, you will get better each time. With these strategies in mind, even introverts can become experts in the fine art of networking, by using your personality traits to your advantage.
Go forth and conquer!