We meet a lot of people who find networking very difficult, or who think that they are ‘no good’ at networking. Often, though, it is just a case of finding your networking style. We think a lot about introversion and extroversion here in Careers. People sometimes mistake this for being shy (or not!), whereas it’s really about where you get your energy from.
Extroverts get their energy from other people, and are really good at talking to lots of people at conferences and events, engaging people in small talk, and making lots of contacts to add to their network.
Introverts, on the other hand, find that being around other people actually drains their energy, and often feel that they are not natural networkers. Actually, introverts can be great networkers, they just need to take a different approach to the extroverts.
Networking for introverts
Focus on quality rather than quantity. Your strengths lie in building good relationships, rather than expansive networks. Maybe set yourself a challenge to talk to a certain number of people over the course of your event, say, two or three people over a two day conference; or just that one person you’ve been meaning to speak to for ages.
Think about building your connections via social media, as well as face-to-face. This will give you the space to really think about what you want to say.
Make use of your good listening skills to really engage with the people you’re talking to. Asking them plenty of questions means that you don’t have to worry about talking about yourself.
If you’re at an event, take time to recharge your batteries. A drained and tired introvert often finds themselves becoming more introverted! Taking a bit of time to yourself will make you more effective.
Networking with introverts
We often get asked by extroverts how to network with introverts! Remember:
– If someone is being a bit quiet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not interested in you. It might be that they’re thinking about what you said, or are more comfortable with listening than with talking about themselves.
– Introverts often welcome the chance to talk to someone who takes an interest in them. Remember that they like talking about things that are meaningful to them, rather than engaging in small talk.
– Introverts are not often comfortable starting conversations, so if you see someone looking a bit lost, they will probably welcome someone who takes the trouble to come over and introduce themselves. But if someone seems quite happy by themselves, then don’t feel guilty for giving them their space.
– Finally, don’t forget to politely sign-off when you’re ready to finish your conversation and get back to expanding your own network: ‘I’ve got a few people I want to catch up with, but I’ve really enjoyed meeting you today – stay in touch!’