How to Be a Networking Ninja: The Art of Creating Connections — When You’re An Introvert
We all know that networking is important. It opens up countless doors, makes it easier to get jobs or even meet your dream partner. If you’re reading this, chances are you can count yourself as a self-declared introvert. And yet, many people associate networking with extroverts — they would never think to refuse a business card or hang up on a caller. Maybe you’re one of those people! Maybe you’ve even felt anxious in professional networking situations before (um, who hasn’t?). Well, my dear introverted friend: don’t worry. You don’t have to change who you are in order to build larger social contacts and make your networking goals a reality. Just remember that the right way to network with others is whatever works best for you.
So, how do you network with confidence if networking makes you feel out of breath, shy, and awkward?
It can be challenging to put yourself out there and meet new people, but the rewards are worth it!
Here are some tips on how you can be more comfortable when networking:
Step 1: Become aware of your strengths
The first step to networking with confidence is to become aware of your strengths. Yes! Even introverts have strengths! They may not be as obvious as their extroverted counterparts, but WE HAVE THEM. For example, introverts tend to be more thoughtful and reflective than extroverts, who tend to be more spontaneous. This can help you when you’re networking — you can take time to think about what you want out of the conversation and how you can best contribute.
If you’re feeling nervous about being in a group setting, remind yourself that everyone else there is just like you: they’re trying to make connections and build relationships. In some cases, they might even be nervous too! So don’t worry — you’re all in this together!
- Identify your strengths. There are many different ways to do this, including asking for feedback from colleagues or friends, or writing down what comes naturally to you and how those skills have helped others in the past. The most important part of this step is remembering that your unique characteristics might not be what everyone else thinks they are (i.e., if I’m an introvert but like working with people). Whatever they may be, identifying them will make it easier to market yourself professionally because once we know who we are and what makes us special, it’s easier to share that information with others!
- Know your strengths and use them in networking situations by being authentic about who you are as a professional (e.g., “I’m good at problem solving” rather than “I am great at finding solutions”). A lot of people make the mistake of trying to be someone they’re not when they meet new people — like they’re trying to impress someone or do something that feels unnatural. But if you know what your strengths are and how you can use them to connect with others, then you’ll come across as more genuine and comfortable in your own skin. Don’t try too hard! Just relax and take everything in stride as best as you can — don’t worry about whether or not people think you’re doing well; just focus on being yourself!
- You’re amazing. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve the world. Now, it’s time to take it! When networking, don’t be afraid to talk about yourself as a professional. Tell people what you do and how you got there. Be proud of yourself! That’s what we’re talking about when we say “know your strengths.” Don’t hide behind any of your accomplishments, but also don’t brag about them either — that doesn’t work well in networking situations. Instead, be confident and know that the things that make you great are just as good for other people who might benefit from knowing them too!
Step 2: Find ways to extrovert on your own terms
- Find ways to be comfortable. For introverts, it’s important to feel safe and relaxed when networking so that they can connect with others. Extroverts thrive in social settings; introverts need a little more time to warm up and think about what they want to say before speaking. If you’re an introvert, try these tips for finding your comfort zone:
- Bring something that makes you feel special. Whether it’s a scarf, a necklace, or even a pair of gloves, having something on will help you feel like you’re taking care of yourself and making an effort to look nice.
- Set a goal for each interaction — like learning one new fact about someone or asking a question about something that interests them. Then, focus on achieving that goal so that you’ll have less energy left over for worrying about awkward pauses or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time!
- Prioritize personal conversations over large group events (but don’t skip out!) Try talking with people one-on-one or in small groups instead of attending big conferences where there are many speakers and many attendees — you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all of the crowds! And remember: if you feel like something is getting too overwhelming, take some time alone outside of the event so that you can recharge your batteries before returning inside later on again when things have calmed down (or just leave early).
Step 3: Practice, practice, practice.
If you want to be confident in your networking skills, there’s no way around it — you have to practice. I know, I know. In theory, networking is supposed to be easy and fun, right? But all too often, when we’re trying to network with someone new, we feel awkward and unsure of what to say — and the result is that our conversations feel forced and unnatural. Networking is like any other skill: the more you use it, the more comfortable you’ll feel doing it. And that means that it can seem scary at first. But once you get over that initial fear, the benefits of networking are endless! It’s a great way to find jobs and make friends, plus it helps you build your professional network. But what does that mean? How do you practice networking?
Practice networking by identifying opportunities for networking. When you’re out with friends or at a social event, look for opportunities for conversation with people who seem like they might be interesting to talk to. If you can’t find anyone like that, introduce yourself to someone who seems friendly and open.
Once you’ve found an opportunity for conversation, try some small talk. This can be as simple as commenting on the weather or asking about someone’s job if it seems like a safe topic. If the person responds well, continue the conversation! Ask questions about their interests and ask them what they do for fun outside of work.
Afterward, reflect on how your conversation went. Were there any areas where things felt awkward or uncomfortable? Are there any ways that you could improve your next networking opportunity?
Step 4: Change the way you think about networking.
This step is the most important thing you can do to become a great networker.
Networking is a word that has gotten a bad rap in recent years.
It’s all too easy to think of networking as something that’s only for people who are already successful, or for those who are trying to sell you something. But networking is much more than that, and it’s an invaluable part of any business — even the smallest one.
Networking is about building relationships. It’s about interacting with other people and getting to know them, so that you can work together on projects and grow your business in the future. Networking isn’t just about making new friends; it’s about creating opportunities for yourself and others by building a strong support network around you.
You need to change how you think about networking.
- You don’t have to be an extrovert to be successful and build a network of people who want to help you achieve your goals.
- You can be successful as an introvert, just like any other type of person. If there are certain situations that make it harder for you, then avoid those situations as much as possible! If there are some events or interactions that make it easier for you, then try and find ways to do those things more often!
- Networking is important because it allows us all access valuable information from other people in our communities — whether we’re looking for jobs or simply trying out new hobbies together — but I’d argue that sometimes even more important than what someone offers us at their event (or even over coffee), is simply being around them in person so we know where else we might get involved around town. As someone who has spent most of my life avoiding large groups of people because they cause me anxiety when talking with strangers at events like conferences or parties where everyone seems happy except me, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to change the way we think about networking. What if we didn’t think of it as “networking” at all? What if we thought of it as “meeting new people”? What if we thought of it as “doing something exciting”? What if we thought of it as “giving ourselves permission to be present in our own lives”?
- There’s a reason why people who have learned how to network really well are so successful — they’re good at making connections and building relationships. But what if those relationships weren’t built over drinks and small talk? What if they were built over shared interests and experiences?
- I’m not saying you should go out and make friends with everyone who comes up to talk to you at a conference or party (although that would be pretty cool). I’m saying take some time before the event starts, find out what kinds of topics are going to be discussed, and look for ways that you can relate your own interests or experiences back to those topics.
You can network even as an introvert — as long as you find ways to be comfortable!
It’s easy to feel like you don’t have the personality for networking. Introverts tend to be more reserved, and they’re often uncomfortable with being the center of attention or talking about themselves. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to offer! Networking is about connecting with other people and getting to know them — and that means making sure that you’re comfortable with yourself before jumping into a conversation. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, it’s easy to feel like the other person is going to be more comfortable talking than you are — and that can make it hard to get into a conversation.
But here’s a secret: You can network even if you’re an introvert! It just takes a little bit of courage and a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are some tips for how to do it:
- Prepare yourself in advance by thinking about topics you want to talk about with people who might be at the event. This will help keep you from feeling like you have nothing in common with anyone there and make it easier for you to jump right into conversations when the time comes.
- Bring something small (like a trade magazine) along with you so that if there are moments when things are particularly quiet, you can flip through it without feeling awkward while waiting for someone else to start talking again.
- If there’s someone who looks friendly and approachable, go ahead and introduce yourself! You might find out they’re really interesting once they open up — and even if they’re not super social, they’ll probably appreciate being approached by another person.
So, if you’re an introvert, don’t despair! Networking doesn’t have to be something that makes you feel uncomfortable. You may just need to channel your inner extrovert for a few minutes, and remember that it’s about building relationships — not parties. With that in mind, take some time to think about the people you might want to add to your network (barring obvious red flags like creepy stalkers). Then, look out for people who might make good additions to your network, and start adding them to your contacts. In this way, networking can even be fun for introverts!
Remember, you’re more than just your introverted personality! You have strengths that can take you far in your career/business/life. And when you know how to use those strengths in networking situations, you’ll be able to put your best foot forward — and really make an impact in the world around you. Do not let your introverted tendencies stand in the way of a great networking opportunity. You would be surprised at how much you can do on your own terms to make it easier for you to network.
That’s it. You don’t need to change who you are in order to create valuable professional relationships. And remember: the more you engage in networking activities, the better you’ll get at them! Be confident, be yourself, and before long that network you’ve built will pay off in ways you never expected.
Take some time today to think about how you can make small changes that will lead to big results tomorrow — because we all know how important it is! Happy networking!