Posted by Cynthia Kong on Monday, September 22, 2014 - 00:00
Hate networking? You're not alone. Just the thought of having to make small talk with a bunch of people you don't know can be horrifying. It can be even more intimidating for introverts.
I wouldn't exactly say I'm a shy person. In fact, in my role, communicating with others is kind of required. And if you get me talking about something I'm interested in, there's no stopping me. But I've taken those quizzes about your work style and personality before, and the results always show I've got some introversion. Any other introverts out there?
Being an introvert doesn't necessarily mean you don't like talking to people. It just might be that you tend to do more internal reflection and prefer doing activities alone over interacting in a group setting. Seeing as though networking is typically done at social gatherings with hordes of people, it isn't always an introvert's cup of tea. But there are ways introverts can network without becoming overwhelmed. Try these seven tips:
1. Join events that match your interests. You don't always have to network at the standard mixers or conferences. You can meet all sorts of valuable contacts (and have fun in the process) by participating in volunteer causes, sports or hobbies. You may find that you're more comfortable chatting it up in less formal settings.
2. Buddy up. See if a friend or colleague would like to attend an event with you. Heading into an uncomfortable situation with someone you are familiar with will help give you a sense of ease. Just don't rely on the other person so much that you're closed off from meeting new contacts.
3. Be prepared. Come ready with your elevator pitch, responses for potential questions and ice-breakers to ask others. You may even want to practice your networking technique with a friend or family member in advance to calm your nerves. And don't forget to bring those business cards!
4. Arrive early. Getting there before the event starts allows you to get the lay of the land. If you're late, it's harder to join in on existing conversations because people will have already separated into groups.
5. Don't worry about "working the room." You don't need to talk to every person at an event. It's about the quality of the relationships you make, not the quantity of business cards you can score. Before attending, set a goal like "meet three new people" to help you stay focused.
6. Find someone who's alone. It may be easier to approach someone who isn't with others because you won't be interrupting a conversation that's already going on. Who knows, it could be another introvert that you can relate to!
7. Listen carefully. Rather than talking all about yourself, ask thoughtful questions of others and listen to their responses. Not only will that show your interest (which will be memorable to the person you're speaking to), but you'll be able to follow up based on what you learned.
One more thing to keep in mind is that while it's tempting to conduct much of your networking online because it's less awkward and saves time, you need to mix things up. Try to do some in-person networking for initial introductions and to maintain professional relationships, then supplement those efforts with online interactions.
Will you be practicing your networking at APC in National Harbor, MD later this month? While you're there, stop by our session at 10:45 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 30 to get an exclusive first look at the OfficeTeam 2015 Salary Guide!