Posted by Robert Half on Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 06:00 | Follow me
No matter what industry you’re in, knowing how to network effectively is valuable for your career. But what if socializing with strangers at big events is outside your comfort zone? How can you network if you prefer your own company to that of others?
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t network successfully. Here are six tips to take the stress out of making new connections and building your professional network.
1. Maximize your social media presence.
Social networks like LinkedIn are fantastic for introverts because you can connect with countless industry colleagues from the privacy of your home or office. Begin by cleaning up all your public profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and current, and start following, commenting on and sharing blog posts written by leaders in your industry. The comments sections offer a good way to engage in conversation with others.
2. Set small, achievable goals.
Attending a company meet-up, conference or networking event doesn’t mean you have to be present every minute. Before you go, choose a departure time that seems comfortable for you, even if it’s early. Then the whole event will seem more manageable. You can also be selective about your conversations. Maybe you aim to connect with two or three individuals rather than trying to chat up as many people as possible. Quality is more effective than quantity when it comes to in-person networking.
3. Don’t force yourself to be a social butterfly.
Moving from one stranger to the next, shaking hands and collecting business cards isn’t the only way to network successfully. Play to your strengths instead. Extroverts might be good at talking themselves up, but it’s just as important to listen well. Be inquisitive and ask the right questions. It’s a great way to take the focus (and pressure) off yourself. Plus, others will appreciate you as a contact who is genuinely interested in what they have to say.
4. Prepare what you’ll share.
Before a networking event, you can also come up with a few anecdotes or personal stories about yourself that you’re ready to share. Find out ahead of time who will be attending the event, and identify a few key people you’re particularly keen to add to your network. If you want a safety net, jot some conversation starters or story reminders you’d like to share with these key contacts on index cards that you can check discreetly.
5. Find a networking buddy.
Events can be much less stressful when you attend with someone you know. Find a more extroverted colleague who can make introductions and reduce the pressure of approaching strangers. But don’t let your coworker dominate the spotlight completely. If you don’t feel comfortable jumping into the conversation, wait until an appropriate moment to pull a new acquaintance aside and start a private conversation. You need new connections to remember you, too.
6. Give yourself time.
Don’t feel pressured to build a huge network overnight. Try first for a small network of contacts with whom you have high-quality, well-developed relationships. That’s infinitely more valuable than a huge network of people who don’t know much about you (and vice versa).
Networking may seem intimidating. But with the right approach — and a willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone — you can learn how to network successfully, both online and off.
What tips do you have for introverts who are learning how to network?