Being able to network is one of the most important skills you can have in today’s business world. Of course, not everyone has the outgoing personality that makes networking second nature. Introverts in particular might have a tough time when faced with a crowd of unknown people, as they tend to keep to themselves and despise small talk. However, there are many ways introverts can use their personality to their advantage which may not seem obvious at first, but will ultimately lead to successful networking sessions.
1. Practice and Rehearse
The most introverted among us have to practice even the most simple interactions. I know that even when I make a phone call to a pizza place I have to repeat my order aloud a few times before actually dialling the number. Before a networking session, it’s important for introverts to know exactly how they’re going to present themselves, and what they’re going to say. Of course, you don’t want to sound robotic, but you don’t want to get caught making awkward pauses and using too many “um’s” and “uh’s.”
2. Do your research
Along with practicing what you’re going to say, introverts should also research the people they’ll be meeting. I don’t mean you should stalk them out on Facebook or anything, but having specific talking points for each individual you meet will certainly put you at an advantage. Instead of going into a networking session blind, know what position people hold, any awards they’ve won, or anything else you can find out about them through the company’s webpage. Again, you’ll avoid awkward pauses and dead spots in conversation, and you’ll impress the company with how much you already know about them.
3. Keep conversations short and simple
You also don’t want to let conversations go too long. Introduce yourself, discuss the important talking points you’ve planned in advance, and move on to another introduction. Don’t let the conversation get stale, as you don’t want to end up panicking when you run out of things to talk about. Again, don’t be robotic, but don’t make it obvious that you painstakingly planned out every word that comes out of your mouth. You don’t want to appear phony, either.
4. Focus on your strengths
As an introvert, you most likely have a ton of strengths that you never gloat about. Now isn’t the time to hide your skills and abilities. Do your best to bring up past accomplishments and future goals, showing everyone that you have the ambition and drive that would make you an asset to the company.
5. Bring a colleague
It might help if you bring a work friend along, as well. Maybe they know some of the people that will be there, giving you an “in” with them. Maybe you might know someone they don’t, and it’ll look good for you if you’re able to connect others as well. At the very least, it can’t hurt to have someone to talk to during dead times — that way, you won’t look like you’re completely alone and unapproachable.
6. Draw others to you
As I just mentioned, you want to be approachable. Don’t stand off in the corner waiting for others to come to you, and definitely do your best to not look bored or nervous. Your body language says a lot about who you are as a person. Make eye contact with everyone you come across, and make sure to smile and nod throughout the networking session. As an introvert, it’s definitely hard to invite people into your world, but it’s absolutely necessary when trying to further your career.
7. Listen carefully
Listening is an introvert’s strong suit, so put it to good use. Take stock of everything that’s said to you throughout the session, and take note of who said what. Notice the little things, such as if a person discusses his interest in a certain sports team or music genre. Showing that you pay attention to details will go a long way.
8. Form close relationships
Since you’ve listened closely to everything everyone has said, you can follow up at a later time with those you feel you have common bonds with. Again, this is another strength of the common introvert. Although it’s difficult to put yourself out there, it’s much easier to make close connections with those who share your interests and viewpoints. Seek these people out in the days following a networking session, and make sure they know just how much you appreciated their company.
Featured photo credit: Social Networking: Ninjacam / Dave Fayram via farm3.staticflickr.com