I’m an introvert.
I say this as if it’s a dirty secret and I should follow my confession with a clarifying statement, like I do love people, parties and public speaking. I have friends. I don’t live alone with my cat (although I do have a cat).
The fact of the matter is that being an introvert is a strength and personality trait that about half the population posses. So it’s not surprising that highly successful people like Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, Warren Buffet, Emma Watson, Candace Bergen and JK Rowling are introverts.1
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “introverts are not necessarily shy or anti-social, they just prefer environments that are not over-stimulating and get their energy from quiet time and reflection.”2
Cain definitely describes me here. I prefer relating to people one-on-one. And usually if I’m not in a leadership role then the larger the group, the quieter I get.
I’m a listener. I seek connections with people. Real connections, which is why I loathe small talk and chit chat and find it really hard to stay motivated to interact with people on Twitter (it’s hard to make a connection in 140 characters or less).
I love to help people, even people I don’t know. But I have a difficult time asking for help. And now that I need to expand my network by, well, networking, I have to figure out how to do this without feeling awkward or emotionally drained. Here’s how.
Networking tips for introverts:
I like to plan things out, and plan for contingencies. I have contingency plans for my contingency plans. Planning gives me energy and makes me feel confident when I’m in a situation where things are out of my control. Like being in a room full of strangers where I need to think on my feet and make small talk.
So, here’s my plan. I hope it helps you as well*:
- Find individuals from my past, or who are connected to someone I know who may be willing to offer some words of wisdom, guidance or experience about their own career path. I plan to use LinkedIn to do this reconnaissance, and I’ll be searching anonymously (you can do that so people don’t know you’re creeping them).
- Research real-life and online events where I can meet like-minded professionals. These include LinkedIn, social networking platforms like Twitter, alumni events, professional associations, conventions, business networking groups, webinars, podcasts and forums.
- Stay up-to-date on interesting, relevant industry news. Remaining current allows me to stay on top of my professional game while giving me something to talk to people about.
- Review my strengths and the language I want to use to describe myself. This step will help me remain articulate and better able to think on my feet in those awkward small talk situations.
- Keep my professional website, LinkedIn profile and CV current so that I’m ready if someone is interested in learning more about me.
- Go shopping. With an eight week old baby I definitely need some professional attire to wear in the interim (the interim being the time it takes me to get back into my pre-baby clothes). Clothes are definitely one part of the professional look, but don’t forget about the small details. Like awesome looking business cards. The kind people won’t immediately throw away.
So, I have a plan and I feel better already. If you’re an introvert who struggles to network I hope these tips help. If you’re an extrovert then please, share your expertise and tell us how you manage to network so naturally.
If you’re an introvert you may find it helpful to visit www.theradicalintrovert.com.
Do you have any other resource suggestions for Introverts? Please share them in the comments section below and I’ll add them to this list.
1 Schocker, Laura. “16 Outrageously successful introverts.” The Huffington Post. 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
2 Barford, Vanessa. “Do we really give introverts a hard time?” BBC News Magazine. 27 Mar. 2012. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
* When someone says something along the lines of “make a plan” I can’t help but think of 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. Yes, I’m a nerd who loves Paul Simon. Enough said.