Networking is certainly a skill worth brushing up on, especially when you consider the highly-competitive world that we live in. While the practice usually comes nice and easy to extroverts, it can be a real struggle to introverts.
If the mere idea of a networking event gives you the chills, don’t despair, you are not alone. Below are the best tips to help you make the best of the situation, with business cards in your pocket and a genuine smile on your face.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
The minute you shift your perspective to see networking as an art that can be mastered, the quicker you’ll get the grasp of it.
Read about it, push yourself out of your comfort zone and take every chance to strengthen the skill, be it with a friend, in front of the mirror, or in actual networking fairs.
Introverts are often afraid their minds will go blank, and in a crowded room, this fear is justified. So make sure you come armed with a few questions and ice-breakers; prepare questions for safe topics like hobbies, music, films etc. Steer away from touchy subjects like religion, politics, and sports.
Also, don’t forget to ask questions that are career-related, such as “What does your typical day look like?” “What do you like/dislike most about your job?” etc.
Be well-read, knowing the current events and business trends will make your input in the conversations very strong, and thus you will be more confident.
Remind yourself of your strengths, especially, your listening skills.
Networking can seem like such a nightmare, that introverts often forget they have plenty to bring to the table. Listening skills can seriously improve your networking game, as people generally love to talk about themselves.
Make sure you do listen to everything they say, and throw in relevant, thoughtful questions. You’d be surprised by how often extroverts fail to do this.
They are effective the same way referrals are. People tend to warm up much better to someone they were introduced to, so if you know someone who can introduce you to others, don’t hesitate to ask them. You may be able to return the favour in the near future.
Don’t take it personally & Move on quickly
It’s impossible to build rapport with everyone, so don’t be put off when you can’t establish a connection with some people. It is a natural part of the process that unfortunately, can’t be changed.
You don’t want to force anything, and likewise, don’t feel like you have to be liked by everybody. If you’ve picked up on any social cues showing the spark simply isn’t there, hand in your business card, and politely move on.
Quality over Quantity
Some people prefer to come out of a conference with a million business cards in their pockets, they find quantity imperative for effective networking. This idea creates high expectations, which by default puts a lot of pressure on introverted networkers. But here’s some great news: You don’t have to speak to a ton of professionals, there’s no point having dozens of empty conversations.
Focus on quality instead, research the attendees and find out exactly who you want to approach.
…And don’t forget to follow up! Normally, the etiquette is to contact the person within 24-48 hrs of having established a good connection with them. Happy networking!