How Do Introverts Network Effectively?
To help introverts navigate the networking landscape, we’ve gathered ten invaluable tips from professionals across various fields, including a business psychologist and a freelance copywriter and marketing strategist. From focusing on professional interests instead of small talk to leveraging LinkedIn for digital networking, these experts share their best strategies for introverted networking.
- Focus on Professional Interests, Not Small Talk
- Prepare by Researching Attendees in Advance
- Adopt a Value-Sharing Mindset
- Find an Informant for One-on-One Networking
- Take Gradual Steps Towards Networking
- Network Around Your Passions
- Set Personal Pacts for Networking Events
- Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
- Make a Lasting Impression Beyond Business
- Leverage LinkedIn for Digital Networking
Focus on Professional Interests, Not Small Talk
As an introvert, I thought I hated speaking with people, especially strangers, but that was an oversimplification. After years of networking, I eventually realized that I didn’t hate talking to people; I just hated making small talk.
“Great weather we’re having,” “How far did you travel?” “Do you have any siblings?” Even today, I find myself shuddering at the thought of making awkward small talk with strangers. However, when talking about my professional interests, I found I could speak for hours on end with anyone who would listen.
Consequently, I believe introverts should stick to business when networking, focusing only on professional interests and areas of expertise. Leave the small talk to the extroverts and simply focus on the primary objective of networking.
Ultimately, you aren’t trying to make friends; you’re trying to expand your professional network, and even the most extroverted contact is happy to forgo the pleasantries and just focus on the topic at hand.
Prepare by Researching Attendees in Advance
Networking can be exhausting for us introverts, so minimizing the effort is crucial. As an introvert myself, I have one clear strategy. I like to know who is attending the event in advance, and from there, identify individuals that I would like to speak to.
Once I have my short list, I then look them up on platforms such as LinkedIn, and I look at the content they put out. I always try to find one piece of content, whether it’s personal or professional, that I can use as a discussion opener on the night. This helps kick-start the conversation in a more confident and friendly manner. Do, of course, refer to the piece of content you’re talking about so they know it’s personal to them.
Adopt a Value-Sharing Mindset
I’m certainly an introvert. Although, if I were to share this in a room full of people who know me, they might find it surprising because I’ve mastered the skill of pretending to be extroverted. Over the years, it has taken significant mental work to break free from my internal thoughts and remember a few key things.
For instance, acknowledging that the person I’m talking to is simply another human being, like myself. Also, fully immersing myself in the ongoing conversation, instead of over-analyzing every word and question that comes up, has proven to be an important lesson. When you’re networking, it’s important to remember the goal: you’re sharing your value in hopes that someone is receptive to receiving it.
Find an Informant for One-on-One Networking
Before moving into my current role as a career coach, I was a freelance lifestyle journalist for several years. During that time, I built a robust network of writers and clients, mostly by attending socials and mixers. And yet, nothing makes my stomach turn like walking into a room full of strange faces.
So, my best tip for networking as an introvert is to find an informant. An informant is anyone who can be your gateway into a specific circle. For example, if you’re planning to attend a networking event, you might first reach out to another attendee on the event’s social media page. Establish a connection by outlining your similar goals or interests, and expressing an interest in the work they do.
Then, explain that you’d love to pick their brains on a couple of key issues at the event. Turning the event into a one-on-one meeting will make the experience far less intimidating, and even if you only talk to your informant, you’ll still have added to your network meaningfully.
Take Gradual Steps Towards Networking
For me, networking was daunting, and I avoided it for months on end. In the end, I had to try, and I started by attending online, free, and casual networking events and meetings.
Then, I began visiting networking groups, and once I felt comfortable, it was easier to join. I still feel nervous, though, but would say that the tip is to go slowly, without stepping out of your comfort zone, but always pushing forward.
Network Around Your Passions
Networking used to feel like an unpleasant chore to my introverted brain until I started working in a field I’m passionate about. When I built my business around my passions of travel and outdoor adventure, I easily met people and built mutually beneficial relationships. I was having so much fun that it took a while to realize I was networking without even trying to!
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of networking in a field they’re passionate about. Aligning your career with your values and interests is a fulfilling long-term strategy that can be especially crucial for introverts, but in the meantime, you can still network effectively. Look for opportunities to focus on an aspect of your work that you find truly interesting, whether it’s a specific sub-niche, skill set, professional tool, or community.
Over time, this might even steer your role toward one you find more fulfilling in both your day-to-day work and networking efforts.
Set Personal Pacts for Networking Events
For networking events, make a pact with yourself: one thing that brings up resistance for me with going to a networking event is the fact that it’s this open-ended, ongoing event where I can’t control how many people are there and when it will end.
What if I get stuck talking to people for longer than I want? What if I don’t enjoy it? What if no one clicks with me or finds our conversation interesting? What if I get tired? A way I deal with this is to make a pact with myself. I say to myself, “Ok, I will just go for one hour. I can stay later if I want to.” I say to myself, “Ok, I will start a conversation with at least two people. I can talk to them for as long as I like and can also talk to more people if I want.”
The pacts are always more on the easy or manageable end, but by putting a boundary around my energy and the networking event, it makes me feel more free and motivated to go and actually enjoy myself.
Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
As an introvert, effective networking for me is all about quality over quantity. There’s no guarantee I’ll meet everyone in the room at an event, but I’ll have a few meaningful, in-depth conversations. Building genuine connections is more important than just handing out my business card to everyone I meet.
For example, suppose I’m at a business conference. In that case, I’d prefer a profound interaction with a handful of people in my industry or with similar interests, rather than superficially speaking with many people. This approach makes networking manageable and enjoyable for me.
Make a Lasting Impression Beyond Business
Definitely an introvert, and as a business owner, the importance of networking is well understood. However, the approach is different.
At a conference, another business owner had a goal to hand out all of their business cards by the end of the weekend. They were told that the strategy was to hand out five business cards.
Why such a small number? This allows for making a lasting impression. When introducing oneself and having a conversation, the business and skill-set are going to come up, so they are already aware of what is done.
Getting to know someone beyond their business, and not just pitching to them, leaves a lasting impression. One where they can point out at a gathering and introduce their connections. This allows for others to come to you.
Leverage LinkedIn for Digital Networking
As a classic introvert, I’ll never be the type to walk into a huge networking event and suddenly own the room. There’s no doubt that traditional networking is an extrovert’s game, but I’ve found plenty of ways to make an impression and gain new contacts.
Social media has been an absolute game-changer for me—especially LinkedIn. The platform has transformed my freelancing career and allowed me to talk to prospective clients in a setting that suits my personality.
By joining groups and posting regularly, I can connect with a wider audience and have found many clients through this channel.
While Facebook offers some great networking options, the nature of LinkedIn means it’s easier to connect with B2B clients.
My tips for networking on LinkedIn include:
- Remember to comment on people’s posts instead of just liking them.
- Find the right groups that contain your target audience.
- Connections and casual chat are essential.
- Don’t expect immediate results.
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