Confession: I’m an introvert living an extroverted life in an extroverted world.
Growing up, I had no idea I could even be an introvert. I didn’t think of myself as shy. I was surrounded by extroverts in my family so I assumed I must be extroverted, too! I always felt everyone was awkward with people, like others were better at “socializing” than me. So, I learned to “fake it” and fake it well. I’m very very good at “acting extroverted” for brief periods of time!
Which means instead of an inherent trait or ability, I view “networking” as a learned skill. I’m happy to report that we networkers can become exceptional networkers – even when it is our least favorite thing on the planet to do. (Personally I will confess that I’ve gotten to where I no longer want to poke my eyeballs out rather than network, I actually don’t mind it that much, once I get there.) For me, having a few tools to cling to has made networking much less of a torture.
Here are my personal tips:
1) Focus on the five people I need to meet, not the 500 people in the room!
2) Personal Business Cards – so much more comfortable to exchange information!
3) Prepped small talk questions in advance – I have built up a small arsenal of good questions to keep the spotlight off me and on the other person, and keep conversation going.
4) Something to offer – I try to have a “freebie” or two I can offer to others, as a reason to email them later on. Maybe a personal tip or idea, and article to pass along later, or resource that might be useful. My goal is to make less about me, but more about helping others.
5) A Job – Give me something I can do with my hands! I always volunteer to help out – registration table, greeting people at the door, picking up garbage, whatever.
6) Help another Introvert Out – I often will look out for another introvert, and try to help them feel more comfortable, help them get started chatting. Again, focusing on others is a great way to be less focused on feeling awkward myself!
7) Comfortable shoes – Sound weird, but if I’m uncomfortable standing there chatting, it seems to translate into everything else I do. So, good comfortable shoes are a must!
#IntrovertsUnite! We CAN #network, as long as we do it OUR way and in OUR style! Please share your own #networkingtips below!
Originally posted on LinkedIn here.