What comes to mind when you hear the word networking? Do you picture large events where you have to speak to complete strangers? Exchange business cards with people that you’ll never speak to again? Or worse, a version of “speed dating” where you meet people and only have a few minutes to convince them to buy your product over the competitor sitting next to you?
According to Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You, networking doesn’t have to be the stereotypical large event. There are many ways to network. Clark gives specific strategies that introverts can use, such as “introverts can play to their strengths by inviting people for 1-1 coffees, hosting small dinner gatherings, or even “networking” online by writing blog posts and attracting others to them. All of those strategies are far less emotionally exhausting than having to go up to strangers and make small talk.”
So, what do all of Clark’s strategies have in common? Playing to your strengths as an introvert. Start with less people in order to make meaningful connections. Focus on building long-term relationships, where people get to know the real you.
Strength in Small Groups
Don’t pressure yourself to talk to lots of people. That might work really well for an extrovert, but not so much for you. Smaller is better when you’re an introvert! So, play to your strengths – introverts do better at one-on-one conversations and in small groups. As an introvert, it’s better to really connect to just a few people and let your true self shine.
Networking is not a one-size-fits-all. It can take form in many different ways. So, you need to find strategies that work for you. Try out many different strategies and see which ones you feel the most comfortable to you. It’s a little bit of trial and error. Remember those strategies from above by Clark:
1. Have coffee or lunch with 1 to 3 other people,
2. Host a small group for dinner, or
3. Write a blog post and let people discover you online.
Here’s a few more strategies to try:
4. Start a book club,
5. Join a club like Toastmasters, or
6. Organize a monthly potluck at work.
Ask for Introductions
Ask friends and colleagues to introduce you to people. For example, if you are at a social event, start out with a friend or colleague who can introduce you to people they know. This way, your friend can start the conversation and then you can join in.
If your friend can’t be at the networking event with you, ask them for recommendations of who you could talk to. Then approach the person and let them know that your friend said you should connect. Come prepared with a few conversation starters, otherwise you might end up staring at the person with a blank look on your face.
Find Common Interests
Make a favourable impression by finding a common interest. Not sure what the other person is interested in? Start by sharing your interests. Even if the other person isn’t into the same thing, you will seem more interesting because you can talk about something passionately.
Listen to Your Instincts
Listen to your gut – don’t force a connection if you are uncomfortable around someone. Even though you are trying to network to make more connections, it’s okay to say no to some if something’s not right. You want meaningful connections, not headaches, or worse, nightmares. Pay attention to your body. Are you smiling without realizing it? If the answer is yes, pursue this connection. Is your body tense and you can’t figure out why? Then it’s time to exit!
Use Social Media
It’s important to connect in person in order to establish deep, meaningful relationships. However, in between in-person meet ups, social media can be a useful tool. Social media allows us to stay in touch and keep updated on any milestones or changes. For example, use LinkedIn to share interesting ideas or send a quick message to the person to congratulate them on work anniversaries or job changes. One bonus from using social media to keep in touch is that people will want to spend time with you when you meet in person.
Be curious about other people. The real value of networking is to establish meaningful connections. Networking is not about focusing only on people who can do something for you. Even if the person can’t do something for you now, keep in mind that they may be able to provide value in the future.
When you meet people, they will give you some information about them. The more you talk to a person, the more details they will share about themselves. Take notes of these details. Wait! Don’t write down these items while they are talking. Wait until later when you are alone, then write down everything you can remember. When the time is appropriate, bring up the details. It could be remembering a birthday, their kids names, their personal interests. By showing that you remember these details it lets the other person know you are interested and care about him or her.
Give and Take
Finally, focus on what you can do for others. Relationships are not one-way. They involve give and take – what can the other person do for you and what can you do for someone else. Ask the other person what would help out them the most. Do something for the other person without expecting anything in return.
Here are a few takeaway points from above:
- The goal of networking is to establish meaningful relationships and connections.
- Play to your strengths as an introvert with smaller groups.
- Remember details about other people.
- Try out different networking strategies.
Until my next blog post, here’s wishing you lots of joy and happiness!