Successful networking can be difficult for anyone, but it’s especially challenging if you’re introverted and shy by nature. Here, experts share networking tips that should make the process easier, if not completely painless.
1. Find your personal networking style
“Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.” When you’re networking, it can help to be up front and honest about how intimidating the process is, and how it’s difficult to break the ice with new people. Doing so can actually help you break the ice and forge a connection with whomever you’re speaking.
2. Focus on advice, not a specific job
Most professional networking is done in pursuit of a new job, and that fact can make networking awkward. Make sure you’re taking the time to broaden the conversation beyond ‘What job can you give me?’.
Introverts can be great at one-on-one conversations, so take each networking opportunity to develop greater common ground with your connection, beyond looking for a job.
3. Find ways to demonstrate your passion and skills
Introverts don’t often display passion in the ways an extrovert will, so it’s important to find alternative ways to express what excites you professionally, as well as what you’ve accomplished. “Since introverts often excel at one-on-one communication, this can come in the form of telling stories about the kinds of things you have enjoyed in the past.”
“Try and steer the conversation toward talking about your work, what you’ve created, and your accomplishments rather than talking about yourself, and your passion and your love for the work you do will shine through.” Having a professional portfolio also can help give you some concrete examples to point to, and some instant talking points if you’re feeling nervous.
4. Use technology to your advantage
LinkedIn has transformed the way people connect to one another, and it’s a great tool for introverts who struggle with networking in person. While it’s not a substitute for in-person networking, it is a great way to figure out who you need to connect to and why.
5. Recognize it doesn’t have to be perfect
Introverts tend to berate themselves over social situations that an extrovert would never think twice about. That in itself reinforces their squeamishness about networking.
“You should recognize that nothing is ever perfect when dealing with human interactions. Some will go better than others, but merely good meetings are not the enemy of the ideal meeting. Even bad meetings are opportunities to learn.”
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