Some people think networking requires dazzling charisma, a razor-sharp wit and movie-star good looks. However, networking shouldn’t be thought of as a bar scene out of Mad Men. Networking is simply getting to know other people in a professional sense.
Just think of it as making ‘work friends.’
If you’ve ever made friends before, you should be able to add connections to your professional network since both require the same basic set of social skills. That being said, meeting someone and getting to know them can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re not naturally extroverted.
The following tips are ways that introverts can go about networking.
Start in your comfort zone
Networking doesn’t have to be done with complete strangers. It can be done with friends and family. And for introverts, this is a good place to start.
Go to family parities or a night out with friends with a networking mentality. Ask people about their job, what’s rewarding about their work and what their biggest challenges are. You never know: These entry-level networking sessions might actually lead to career or work opportunities. Even if these conversations don’t bear fruit, they will get you used to the idea of talking to other people in networking mode.
Once you’ve mastered networking with your most familiar connections, try reaching out to former classmates and ex-colleagues. These connections are much more likely to be helpful to your career, and you still shouldn’t be operating too far outside your comfort zone.
From there, you can start thinking about attending actual networking events.
Focus on listening
Introverts might feel the way they do because they put a lot of pressure on themselves to always say the right thing in social settings. However, most people are happy to have someone listen to them talk.
If you’re naturally shy in a networking environment, simply focus on listening, being curious about what the other person is saying and asking questions that come up naturally in the course of the conversation.
When you allow someone to spend the majority of the conversation talking about themselves, they’ll likely walk away from the conversation thinking they enjoyed it.
Recruit wingmen (or wingpersons)
People who are naturally shy tend to have a much easier time in networking situation if they have a ‘partner in crime’. If you’re going to a networking event, try to recruit someone to go with you, but don’t fall into the trap of only talking to your partner all night. If it helps, try to loop others into your conversation.
Also, don’t just stop at one partner. Once you’ve built up a rapport with someone at the event, adopt them as a wingman. Ask them if they know anyone else and ask for an introduction.
At SSI, we have a massive network of talented professionals and clients. If you’re currently looking for ways to expand your professional network, please contact us to see how we can help.