Networking Tips for the Introverted and Socially Awkward
Walking blindly into a room full of people and being expected to make connections with total strangers can be a daunting task for anyone, especially those who tend to be more introverted or a tad on the awkward side. But time and time again, we hear, “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.”
What’s an introvert to do? Here are a few tips to help you survive and thrive:
- Choose an event style that works for you
Networking opportunities can range from happy hours to all day conferences to educational talks, to hack events, and everything in between. Find a style that works for you, and stick with it! If you’re not the type to jet straight to the bar after work for happy hour, try attending an educational talk where you can meet people with similar professional interests.
- Buddy Up!
Bring a friend along. This method works especially well if you have a more outgoing counterpart who can help get conversations rolling. Otherwise, you and your buddy must commit to actually stepping out of your comfort zone, and not spend the entire event only talking to each other.
- Find a connector
Pinpoint someone in the room who has talked to a lot of people, and ask them for help. Take advantage of RSVP listings on sites like MeetUp ahead of time when available to get an idea of who the organizers and/or active members are before you show up.
- Be a hero
Channel your inner Enrique Iglesias and be a hero to someone who looks as uncomfortable as you feel. Chances are there are others who desperately want someone to talk to, but are too nervous to strike up a conversation.
- Think outside the box
Think about making professional contacts through events for activities and things you are already passionate about. You never know who you may meet at a running club, book club, wine tasting, or even the dog park!
- See yourself in others
Take confidence in the fact that many other attendees at an event have the same concerns as you. They’ll be glad you initiated the conversation, saving them from having to do so. You’re among like-minded people who are going through the same uncomfortable feelings about networking.