It was an introvert’s nightmare: Me, backed into the corner of a tiny kitchen, smashed between a garbage can and the refrigerator as a crowd of strangers circled in front of me. I’d just moved to the city and this was my first solo networking party. I felt awkward, exhausted, and intimidated. Clearly, “working the crowd” was not my strength.
If the thought of networking sends you running for the nearest exit—stop right there! There is a way to work a room that doesn’t drain the life out of you. And it starts by being your awesome, introverted self! Here how:
Find one connection. Susan Cain is gently shaking the world though her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. She suggests this rule of thumb for networking events, “One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.” Don’t make networking a numbers game. Instead, leverage your introverted skill of genuinely connecting deeply with a few. Suddenly follow-ups are fun social events instead of professional obligations.
Befriend social media. Introverts, this medium is your networking jam! Use Facebook and/or LinkedIn to follow up with your connections. Don’t forget to browse their contacts to see who else you might know. Familiarizing yourself with the faces of your industry will help turn the concept of networking from monster to mere shadow, and even help you prepare some personalized questions. People will be impressed with what you know about them. Or creeped out. Definitely one of those things.
Find a wing buddy. Who is a better spokesperson for you than your pals? A great wing buddy can open the door to a great date, so why not for your next professional opportunity? Hint: Extroverts are often skilled conversation starters and make great wing buddies!
Listen. People love to talk and you love to listen. As an introvert, your ears are your greatest asset. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People suggests taking advantage of this strength by focusing on common interests and asking thoughtful follow-up questions. Don’t worry about not making a strong impression; it you keep someone talking long enough, they’ll likely leave the conversation remembering you as a great conversationalist. Easy peasy!
Mind your Q&As. If there is one thing most introverts love, it’s being prepared. If you’re nervous about awkward moments and blanking out under social pressure, prepare a few icebreakers ahead of time. Better yet, memorize your personal elevator pitch!
That’s a lot of info, but we’re not done yet! Come back Wednesday for 5 more tips.