In the past couple of months I have been expanding my horizons in search of a new job in marketing. And with a job search comes the inevitable networking. I’m definitely an introvert and a shy person when you first meet me, but after knowing me for a while, you will find that it’s difficult to get me to shut up. In an effort to not come across as an introvert or shy, I’ve put on this overly chatty persona that definitely feels forced. I’ve done the painful small talk that just doesn’t work for my personality. But, I thought that’s what I had to do. I thought that was what networking was all about.
I was completely wrong. Don’t do what I do because I think people can see right through it. The more I continue to grow and learn about myself, I am faced with looking at things in a different way. And networking is one of those things.
Here are some of my tips to use when networking if you are an introvert:
- Be Yourself – This sounds like a no brainer, but it’s true. If you are an introvert, own it. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Don’t feel like you have to go into a situation and put on a mask. Be yourself and own the fact that networking might be uncomfortable. I find that taking ownership of my anxieties allows me to actually move forward. Instead of beating myself up for being uncomfortable, I just take it for what it is and accept it. Acceptance is the first step!
- Stay in the Moment – I studied the Meisner method of acting for five years and the method taught me so much about day-to-day life. In short, the method forces you to be in the moment and present with your partner, because acting (or life in general) is about listening and responding. At networking events my brain tends to go a mile a minute… “Am I saying the right thing?”, “What will come out of this?”, “Should I be doing something different?”, etc. I now take a breath, look around the room and then stay as present as I can. I listen to the presenters, I read the literature and I talk with others. Instead of thinking about the outcome, I stay focused on what is happening right in front of me.
- Have a Plan – A good amount of networking events will have a schedule. There might be open time to socialize and then a list of presenters. Make sure to look at the run down before you go and plot out how to approach it. You might not stick to the schedule of what you plan, but at least you feel like you how some semblance of control over the situation. Having an idea of what you are getting into may set your mind at ease. This approach works wonders for me in a variety of situations.
- Follow Up – If your nerves get the best of you, it’s okay! Grab business cards from the people you are meeting with and send them an email or note when you are comfortable. Then connect through social media so that you can continue to network or contact them in a way that works for you.
Being an introvert is a blessing and a curse, but I’m making a conscious effort to highlight the blessings. I’m creative, introspective, reflective and purposeful because of my introverted ways. All of those things make for a great employee and are great strengths. That’s what you need to focus on as an introvert – you have strengths! So go into that crowd, network with a strong purpose and then immediately go home, get into your pj’s and take a breath!