Being an introvert means so much more than being than shy, quiet and self-reflective; it also means finding energy by being alone instead of by interacting with others. Sometimes, however, introverts face unique obstacles, especially when it comes to the workplace.
In today’s market, “it’s not what you know, but who you know” may ring truer than ever, and one smart and effective way to make connections and slip a foot in that increasingly harder to open door is networking.
Young professional groups and networking meetings are great resources when looking for job prospects or promoting your current position, but as an introvert this task can be intimidating and daunting. The following five networking tips may ease the comfort level for introverts and make the process more tolerable and maybe even fun.
Set a Goal
Easing into the process can prove more beneficial than diving in head first trying to meet as many people as possible. Find an event that you feel comfortable attending and set simple goals in the beginning. The first goal may be just actually showing up and listening to the speakers or presentations. The second goal may be meeting one new person and giving them your business card. Be patient and realistic. As each goal is achieved you will be motivated to reach the next and eventually it may become second nature.
Have a Purpose
Keep in mind why you are there. Be clear as to whether you are simply there to meet people in your industry or whether you are looking to recruit an investor or client. If you are wishy-washy in your objectives, people will not take you seriously. Outlining your purpose beforehand can help you keep focused.
Fake it until you make it. People want to feel that you know what you are talking about, even if you don’t, and employers want to hire confident employees. Even if you are still feeling out what direction you want to go, portray to your prospects that you know that you are the best person for the job.
Show Interest and Listen to Others
Many introverts don’t like to talk incessantly about themselves and hate to have to “sell” themselves or their products. Luckily, another way to make a lasting impression is to connect with your prospect on their level. Even though you may not like talking about yourself, many other people love to, and they also love people who will listen to them. They will appreciate your interest and remember you for your curiosity. Ask questions and really listen to their answers.
After a networking event, research the contacts you made. Send them an email the next day expressing how nice it was to meet them, and add a personal touch. Maybe even send a handwritten note on your letterhead. Even if you may not ever work with this person, you never know who they know and who they will pass your information to, oftentimes when it is least expected.
The truth is interacting with people can exhaust introverts, but future-proofing your career by building connections with headhunters and people who can open doors for you is worth the effort.