Is networking scarier to you than trick or treating naked …as an adult? That’s crazy, right? But really common; especially if you’re an introvert like me.
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of networking, whether it’s for long-term career growth or as a tool for an immediate job search. It’s universally important. But what if you’re an introvert, and talking to strangers is next to impossible?
We understand that sharing your career goals with strangers can be extremely difficult, particularly for introverts. It might seem unnatural or unnerving to talk to people you don’t know about something vitally important. So we’ve got you covered – here are four tips to help you conquer your fears and build a circle of influential people for advancing your career.
- Bring a friend. There’s no rule that says you have to attend a networking event or a conference solo. Share your goals with someone you trust, then have him or her act as your support during the event. Your friend can help break the ice in a conversation, point a potential contact toward you, introduce a friend that he or she might already know, etc. Sometimes two is better than one.
- Know the audience. Take a few moments to prepare prior to the event. Is there a list of attendees available in advance of the program? If so, scan it and pick at least one person that you will attempt to get to know. Read that person’s profile on LinkedIn, study his or her tweets – in other words, find something in common so that you can easily start a conversation. Don’t forget to exchange business cards or contact information.
- Pick the right venue. Until you feel more comfortable networking at large events, choose a smaller gathering that’s focused on your job skills or on your educational background. If you write code, attend a meeting where lots of coders will be in the audience. If you graduated from Gonzaga, participate in an alumni event. You will automatically have something in common with most of the people in the room.
- Know yourself. If you’re not a morning person, don’t pick a breakfast meeting and expect that you’ll be at your best. If you run out of steam mid-afternoon, you might not be the happiest person at a happy hour. You can always try to compensate for your habits, such as drinking coffee before a morning gathering or having a power snack before you leave the office at the end of the work day. But it might be best to not add more stress to your body’s circadian rhythms until you become more comfortable with networking.
Networking may never be an introvert’s favorite activity. But with these tips, you should be able to have a better chance of achieving your goals of creating career-related relationships with ease.
If you’re an introvert, what are your favorite tips for networking with people you don’t already know?