Networking Made Easy for Introverts

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Does the thought of making small talk make you cringe? Does schmoozing make you feel like a schmuck? Devora Zack, author of “Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed and the Underconnected,” is just like you and has written today’s guest post on this very topic.

Zack, the president of Only Connect Consulting and an expert in personality and the workplace, travels the nation, rubbing elbows with and making presentations to executives in private industry, the public sector and federal agencies. She’s also an introvert – so who better to write about introvert networking than a person who shatters the stereotype?

Introverts Can Sizzle on Networking Job Search

By Devora Zack

 

To network or not to network?  That is the question.

What’s at stake?  Whatever you most want to accomplish; no biggie.

What if you don’t like networking and have no interest?  It drains you.  It never works.  You don’t have time.  You don’t need to.  It’s phony, self-serving, fake, inauthentic, superficial, conniving, manipulative and useless.

Hold it right there.

In my experience, people who claim to hate networking also believe they are not good at it.  But that may not be true. People who hate networking fail at traditional networking by following advice never intended for them in the first place.  You have the raw materials to be a stellar networker.  You are just following the wrong rules.  Standard networking advice fails you, so you assume you fail at networking.

What is networking?

Networking is the art of building and maintaining connections for shared positive outcomes.

That doesn’t sound so bad.  You can now learn networking methods aligned with the true you.

Networking propels you to your potential.  Think of a goal.  Perhaps you want to find a job, build your career, win a promotion, make a connection, improve the world, build a reputation, achieve your dream or grow a business.

Networking will further your aim.

As a consultant and author, I have never met a person who did not benefit tremendously from learning how to network on his or her own terms.

The more authentic you are, the more resilient and valuable networks you create.  You can network successfully by being real; applying your natural strengths.  You can learn to work with, rather than fight against, your lovable self.

The very traits previously labeled as liabilities are now your finest networking assets.

I am an off-the-chart introvert.  I have conversations with people in my head that I think actually took place.  I need to process ideas before speaking up, or get myself into trouble.  The idea of a free-floating happy hour propels me into free-floating anxiety.  A cacophony of external stimuli doesn’t excite me; it drives me away.

I happen to also be Type A with an exceptionally high energy level.   Introverts can be low-key or intense; prefer the back of the room or the spotlight.  These traits are not linked to what defines introversion.

Introverts are reflective, focused and self-reliant.  Extroverts are verbal, expansive and social.  These characteristics lead to three key distinctions:

  • Introverts think to talk; extroverts talk to think.
  • Introverts drill deep; extroverts stretch wide.
  • Introverts energize alone; extroverts energize with others.

These differences lead to many opportunities for introverts to shine in the networking arena.  Don’t condemn yourself for who you are.  Embrace, accept and flaunt your natural style.  OK, maybe flaunting is a bit much to ask.  Still, it is something to work towards.

I have discovered techniques that turn the world of networking for introverts upside down — or shall I say right side up? These insights can transform you into a networking star. You can even enjoy your customized version of networking.  Seem impossible?  It’s not.

Standard networking adages include:

  • Promote yourself constantly.
  • Never eat alone.
  • Increase contacts for increased success.

Until now, networking advice has been written for people of a particular temperament – the very personality style already predisposed to enjoy the prospect of spearing cheese in a room full of bustling strangers.

Research reveals this personality type is 30 to 50 percent of the general population.  The rest of us have been left to wander aimlessly through the forbidding terrain of meet-and-greets.

Networking tips just for introverts

These networking techniques were created especially for introverts:

Introverts think to talk.

  • Focus on listening rather than self-promotion in initial job search conversations.
  • Carefully select what job search events to attend – target those of most interest.
  • Prepare specific questions to ask new contacts.
  • Prepare and practice aloud responses to frequently asked questions while on a job search.

Introverts drill deep.

  • Research the type of job most suited to you and focus your attention there, rather than dissipating your energy casting a wide net.
  • Arrange one-on-one meals with select individuals rather than joining large groups.
  • Follow up with others based on their interests, proving your immediate value.
  • When at a career fair or job conference, leave yourself time between sessions to pace yourself, increasing your focus at the programs you do attend.

Introverts energize alone.

  • While at networking events, periodically step away from the group to recharge.
  • Volunteer – this gives you a focus, purpose and specific role while networking.
  • When arriving at an event, pause to look over attendee name tags, giving you initial alone time and the opportunity to strategize whom to meet.
  • Make notations about new contacts on their business cards, increasing your ability to remember details and creating breaks between conversations.

No more stamping out your instincts.  Welcome to the world of networking for people who used to hate networking.

Interested in learning more about networking? Click here for more on TheWorkBuzz.com.

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36 Comments
  1. Wonderful advice! Am so glad you broke it down for both introverts and extroverts; after all it is not always easy for people to just walk up to someone and start talking! I find having a shy person at a meal and constantly engaging them and involving them in conversation is one way to help get their courage up. These days, you need a growing network to increase your chances of getting a job, a project or a sale, so there is no excuse not to participate!

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter for questions, comments or violent reactions)

  2. Great post. While I’m also an off-the-chart introvert, I’ve discovered that at conferences, I’m energized by the learning experience, and have a much easier time networking than at meet-and-greet type events.

  3. I am a member of Professional Services Group, volunteer professionals “in transition” an affiliate of NJ department of labor. We practice 30 second commercials for networking and I am amazed at the number of folks who are visably fearful to network. This is a valuable article that I will share with the membership.

  4. My husband and I are both Realtors and we share these introvert (him)/extrovert(me) qualities. I see the “power lunch” as a means of socialing, as well as networking is very pwerful…he on the other hand thinks it is a waste of time and money. It’s a contant debate!

  5. This is breath of fresh air. I struggle with this all the time but I know the benefit of networking. This has given me some great ideas on how to approach conferences and lunches. Coming up with questions to ask is so simple but yet I never thought of it. Also the fact that introverts need to think to talk and extroverts have to talk to think is great comparison and is very true.

  6. I must admit you have some golden nuggets of truth in your article but call me crazy but the thing I hate most is being judged incorrectly when I first meet someone. The pressure of it makes me trip stumble and fumble my words everytime I’m in a situation with a big group. My insecurities about myself don’t help this fact either. When I do try to be more assertive I feel like I’m overbearing to everyone else and hence overcompensating for feeling the way I do…maybe I’m just crazy but hey that’s the truth

  7. Thank you so much for this article! I too am an off the chart introvert and find it very difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I’m getting better at it, but it does take time and practice.

  8. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I got flustered at small talk until someone gave me this tip–just repeat the last three words (or so) the person said. This makes the other person chat away and reveal lots of things they wouldn’t normally say.

    I’ll use Melissa’s comment as an example. She says, “Great advice for a person who is not outspoken but need to learn the art of networking.” And you say, “The art of networking?” Most likely Melissa would explain why why she thinks networking is an art.

    Try it! Its simple and it works!

  9. I cannot tell you how much this article hit home, thank you so much. Though I have learned to be more extroverted, it is not my natural style and the anxiety networking provokes has grown greater and greater over the years. This information was so needed. As a processor of thoughts before I can react appropriately, this makes me feel so much less of an “outsider.” Thanks a million!

  10. Great article. Will definitely use some of the tips. Also, great to know that I am not the only one that has a tough time networking. Thanks!

  11. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you! I am an introvert and my friends don’t understand when I tell them that I am “peopled out” and need to process information before I talk to anyone. These are very helpfulhints for when I go to a conference or have to do a service project with the clients.

  12. Networking for people who may or may not be introverts but have PTSD or severe social anxiety issues.. now THATS a different story.

  13. Pingback: Networking Made Easy for Introverts | MC2TALKS

  14. I really thank my stars that i happen to lay my hands on this extremely informative and helpful article and i can certainly relate with Zack when she says that as an introvert person she thinks of conversation with people in her head because i too do the same. However, after reading the small glimpse, i’ll definitely read the book and ‘ll try to apply the techniques tommorrow in the international conference that i’m attending. Thanks Zack.

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  20. Great guidelines and encouraging words. Actually introverts can make the best networkers because we have a tendency to pay attention to details. It’s not the quantity of connections you make, it’s the quality of a few meaningful and lasting relationships. Yes, it’s scary at first, but a little practice in positive situations will get you over it. Here is a link for more helpful tips:

    http://www.helpforthenetworkingintrovert.com/

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  23. This is what I’ve need to know about being an intervert in the worforce my whole 20 plus years of working. Thank you for the information!

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