The very thought of the word “networking” has been known to strike horror into the heart of every introvert. However, it is something that is hard to avoid, especially in the workplace.
Introverts have a preference for their own company. In fact, introverts can find great energy in being alone, while being surrounded by people can often leave them feeling stressed and lethargic. This is why networking can be particularly challenging for them.
Maybe you are an introvert and have a networking event on the horizon that you are already starting to dread. Well, there are some strategies you can adopt to help you to manage this type of occasion.
The first important strategy is actually to attend. It is all too easy for introverts to avoid attending such events, but this can harm both career and personal development. Attending can be quite productive and rewarding, you just need to do things on your own terms.
The best way to cope with networking is to prepare in advance. There is a temptation to just turn up on the day. Get through it and then get away as soon as possible, which can be counterproductive. One useful way of preparing is to get a list of attendees and pinpoint those you wish to talk to.
If you approach the event thinking that you have to speak to lots of different people, you are bound to feel anxious. However, if you approach the networking event having pinpointed a few people specifically that you wish to meet, this can make the situation much more manageable.
It can be incredibly useful to bring along a colleague who is an extrovert or who at least finds networking enjoyable. This way, you can let them lead in the initial striking up of conversations, providing you with the layer of protection you need to network efficiently. Just be careful not to end up following them around and saying nothing.
Everyone loves a good listener, particularly at networking events when people often want to get across their ideas and contact details. Listening also means you have time to think through what it is you wish to say, rather than jumping straight in at the deep end.
Introverts can very easily get burnt out at these type of events due to the anticipation and energy required on the day. It is best to acknowledge that you will need breaks, and take them when you do. You are likely to find places filled with fellow introverts hoping for a few quiet minutes, and you may find that this is often a great way to strike up conversations based on a mutual dislike of these type of events.
Finally, you need to know when to get out of there. Introverts can sometimes talk themselves into staying to the end just to prove they can. This is not good for your energy levels. Often, the best networking occurs within the first few hours when people are full of energy from coffee and croissants. In short, get done what you need to do and get out of there after you’ve accomplished your goals.