By Laura Lam
Networking – it’s the word that you hear and dread immediately if you might veer towards being introverted, shy or just hesitant about networking. If you’re introverted, you typically get your energy recharging by yourself. (Susan Cain’s talk and book helps put this into perspective.)
Networking is not just for the times when you’re looking for a new job, or to “get” anything in return, there can be many motivations for networking because we can all benefit from expanding our connections. Here are a few tips if networking isn’t your favorite thing in the world and you would rather curl up at home and read a good book.
1. Taking the first steps: research, set an intention, communicate
Be clear about your own intentions when you reach out to someone. When writing a cold email to someone you genuinely want to learn more from, do a bit of background research about what is it about them you are most interested in. Is it an article they have written? A talk you heard them give? Let them know in your initial email and make it personal. This doesn’t apply to just people who lean more towards introversion, but perhaps it’s easiest for introverts to communicate through written words about their intention to connect and make a good first impression that way.
2. You don’t need networking events
There are still great networking events out there during COVID-19, many have just moved to a virtual format, but the process is the same. For some introverts this may make things easier, yet for other it may still seem like the most unnatural environment in the world. So, why not reach out to that one specific contact you want to truly connect with? Connecting one-on-one allows you to derive a deeper, meaningful connection, rather than feeling uncomfortable standing in a circle with everyone else. Use LinkedIn to send them a personable note to connect, follow up with a message to schedule a Zoom meeting or call (at least while coffee meetings are a no-go). Even better, if you have mutual connections, ask them for an introduction.
3. Writing things down can help
For some introverts, meeting new people can honestly be a mini-phobia. When scheduling that phone call or meeting, write down questions that can guide your conversation in case you really stumble and feel nervous. And it doesn’t have to be awkward – tell your connection that you did your research and have questions you don’t want to forget to ask them. It shows a sign that you care about what they have to say, you did your homework, and also allows you to look at that notebook (if you really need it). If talking about yourself isn’t your preference, the questions can allow you be probe, and spare you some discomfort if you REALLY don’t want to talk about yourself.
4. But, you do need to speak
There is beauty in the way introverts communicate and that should be celebrated! Instead of speaking a lot about yourself, you may tend to listen, and mull over questions. Instead of going down a tangent about this crazy story that happened to a friend of a friend, you may ask your guest to elaborate more on their crazy story. But don’t forget, there is a beauty in the voice you bring, so even if it’s uncomfortable, remember to say a little bit about yourself – people want to learn about YOU. Don’t think about the connection(s) you are networking with as an object that you have to please or impress, but rather, just another person you genuinely want to learn more about.