Inside: The 5 networking tips for introverts you need to help you move your career forward while embracing your natural personality. Advice from a Harvard Business School Career Coach.
If you took one look at that picture of a networking event and said “yeah…hard pass” then this article on networking tips for introverts is for you.
Trust me, I know. Because not that long ago I RSVPed “yes” to a networking event and then immediately started to think about the multitude of ways I could get out of it.
Do I feel a cough coming on? Emergency appendectomy? An urgent need to wash my hair?
Please, oh please, have something come up last minute that would save me from this.
That craziest part of all this whole situation is that I’m a career coach, and I still didn’t want to go network!
The Introvert Comfort Zone
Being an introvert who is also a career coach can seem like a weird combination. Shouldn’t I get my energy from being around people? Here’s the thing, I do. To an extent.
I love working with people one-on-one and helping them get to that “ah ha” moment. Light bulb moments are my favorite!
But then I need to be alone again after that, to be in my quiet space. Preferably in pajamas, but not required. Retreating back to my safe zone to recharge helps me to be present and available when I am peopling. Without it, I get all itchy.
Does that sound like you, too?
The Introvert Networking Objections
If you are a fellow Myers Briggs introvert with a capital I, the idea of networking might sound incredibly intimidating to you. Even small talk at a kid’s birthday party can seem intimidating let alone trying to talk to people about your professional goals.
Here are some other common introvert objections to networking:
I’m way too shy.
I won’t have anything to say. Why would someone want to talk to me?
I’m going to make this real awkward, real fast.
It seems fake.
I have to put on real pants.
So we’re going to tackle those objections, from one introvert to another, to put some rose-colored glasses on the world networking. And I’ll share five networking tips for introverts to help you overcome them.
One article isn’t going to free you of all introverted networking insecurities, I mean, I literally just told you that I was panicking about going to a networking event, but the rose-colored glasses certainly help.
Networking Tips for Introverts
Networking Objection 1: I’m way too shy.
Meeting new people can be hard. I get it. So dip your toe into networking without making eye contact.
You don’t need to throw yourself into an in-person networking event if they give you hives in order to network. Please don’t get hives. I haven’t used an epi-pen in YEARS.
Instead, you can start your networking using the grand old World Wide Web. LinkedIn anyone? If you’re not on LinkedIn, hop on there ASAP and use the power of Facebook Pro to your advantage.
And speaking of Facebook, there are some fantastic networking groups on there too. Join groups relevant to your interests. Ask questions, answer other people’s question. You can make connections from the comfort of your home.
Networking Objection 2: I’m going to make this real awkward, real fast.
Awkward is the new cool. I’ll stand by that.
Perfection is so yawnable I literally can’t even. I would much rather be in front of someone who is authentic and a little bit weird than someone is scripted to the Nth degree.
So yeah, if you’re on the phone with someone for a networking call or you’re meeting someone in person, you might say something you didn’t mean to. But I encourage you to embrace your awkward as part of what makes you relatable and a fun person to know.
And you know what can help ease the awkwardness a little? Don’t talk that much. We’ll get to that next.
Networking Objection 3: I won’t have anything to say. Why would someone want to talk to me?
First of all, you’re awesome. And don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Second, you don’t necessarily need to say much to start networking. Let the other person talk.
Start by asking questions. How did she decide to enter this particular field? What does he love about working for his company? How did she build the skill sets to be successful in this industry? What advice would he have for someone starting out? People really do like to talk about themselves and reflect on their own experiences. It’s fun to feel like the expert!
I promise that by being interested, you’ll be interesting. No sweat!
Networking Objection 4: It seems fake.
If you’re an introvert you like your alone time and you also may value deep relationships and connections over meeting lots and lots of people. So going out to meet new people for the sake of them helping your career, meh, that doesn’t sound fun.
But I like to flip the script on this. Would it feel fake to you to offer your help to someone else? Not even in the realm of careers. If someone asks you for your advice on how to grow a great garden like yours, or where to find the best pediatrician you don’t scoff at them. You feel good that they trust your judgement.
It’s the same thing with networking in the professional sense. People don’t mind being asked for advice. It shows you respect them and admire them. Be generous with your time and you’ll find others are excited to be generous with theirs.
Networking Objection 5: I have to put on real pants.
Sometimes that’s true. So, you might need to embrace the idea that putting on real pants, or some comfy leggings under a dress, isn’t the worst thing in the world. It can feel good to get dressed up a little now and again.
But still, let’s circle back to the “I’m too shy” objection. You really can do a lot of networking online. Even if you aren’t feeling shy, online networking is a way to fit meeting new people into your busy life when the only time you have is 9:50pm on a Wednesday.
From the comfort of your sweatpants, find a contact on LinkedIn who works at your target company. Text a friend to see if she could introduce you to her neighbor so you can find out how she became a spin instructor. The beauty of the 21st century, we can accomplish a lot from our couches!
Putting Your New Networking Tips for Introverts Into Practice
So I’m going to challenge you to try to network.
If you are looking for a new job, building your own business, moving to a new city, or you are perfectly happy in your job and you don’t want anything to change. I’m talking to ALL of you. Try to do some networking today.
It can be as simple as joining a relevant group online. Or inviting an old colleague to connect on LinkedIn. Or sending an email to a professional or personal contact you haven’t spoken with in a while. A friendly “hi how are ya?” Just take one small action, you never know what the ripple effect might be.
And when you’re ready to dive in further, come back to these networking tips for introverts. Stick a pin in it for later! Relationships matter, and networking… well, it’s not so bad.
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Photo Cred: Lis Rock Photography