Networking – that conscious effort of going into social situations with the goal of making new connections and building new relationships – on the surface, doesn’t feel like an activity introverts would be great at.
In fact, it’s extroverts who can blow it completely.
Introverts on the other hand, have the potential to ace the networking game. Let me tell you how.
Introversion is the preference to be ‘inwardly turning‘ – that is, to be more focused on internal feelings, thoughts and moods rather than seeking external stimulus.
Introverts therefore, tend to come across as quiet, reserved or reticent people, thoughtful in their observations. They enjoy solitude and as they tend to use a lot of energy being around people, they need time on their own to recharge, process and reflect.
Does that mean they don’t want to be around other people or enjoy social situations?
No – but they do prefer the company of a smaller group of close friends where they can get into deep and meaningful conversations, rather than large groups where they may never get a word in edgewise or feel pushed into making small talk (which they hate).
So at this point you’re probably thinking ‘Well it doesn’t sound like introverts would be good at or enjoy networking at all!’ Read on…
Whilst extroverts love being with people and thrive in group situations, their confidence in speaking their mind and sharing their thoughts can actually become a problem in networking situations.
I am sure you’ve been there – stuck with someone who won’t stop talking about themselves or their business, who doesn’t realise that they are hogging all the airtime, jumping in so quickly with their comments that you don’t get to hear anyone else speak. As an introvert, you may admire their ease but actually – are they being a great networker? No!
Networking is all about building relationships, of discovering what the other person is finding challenging and how perhaps you can help – not necessarily by selling your product or services directly (though of course that can happen) but by introducing them to others, or through sharing information or contacts you feel would be useful to them.
A good networker listens carefully, asks thoughtful questions that builds mutual understanding and upon finding a good connection or someone they can build rapport with, nurtures that connection into a beneficial relationship with timely follow up. Time spent reflecting on who you just met on that zoom call for example, considering how you might follow up with them in a helpful way – well that’s time always well spent!
All of that can be missed by someone who is very extroverted – especially the careful listening to others and asking pertinent questions aspect.
But an introvert, who is aware she doesn’t really like talking about herself to strangers can get very adept at listening carefully to others.
It takes practice, but if you don’t like talking about yourself, you can learn the types of questions and rapport building skills that make the other person feel at ease talking about themselves. And through paying attention to what you are hearing (rather than preparing in your mind what you’re going to say next yourself) you are more likely to get into thoughtful conversations that can uncover networking ‘gold’ so to speak.
So if you feel you are more in the introverted side of the extroversion introversion spectrum, and find even the thought of networking – especially now online! – terrifying, be comforted in the knowledge that actually an introverts approach to networking can be highly effective.
Yes, do prepare a brief way of introducing yourself, have a few ‘go to questions’ you know gets folks talking about themselves in a meaningful way, but most importantly, remember that your natural preferences for listening, a dose of ‘lets just do this’ and a good deep breath, then you really will be fine.