It’s a myth that introverts can’t be good at networking. Being an introvert, I can understand how networking might feel impossible for those who prefer to spend time alone, rather than in large crowds or at parties. But I also believe networking is a skill. And, like any other skill, it can be taught to any person, regardless of personality type or temperament.
I also feel very strongly that this skill must be developed if you’re going to realize your full God-given potential in your career and otherwise.
Here are five easy steps you can take to grow this skill. I hope they’ll be helpful for all, but I’m especially thinking of introverts as I write.
1. Show up
The first step to networking is to go where the people are. This can be downright terrifying if you’re an introvert, and if you haven’t practiced it much, but it’s the first step to becoming good at networking. You have to go to the conference, the party, the event — no matter how tempting it might seem to stay home.
It’s easy to get worked up with fear, or anxiety, or just exhaustion before you even leave the house. But chances are you have nothing to worry about.
Chances are you will have fun.
I’m not saying you can never stay home, or that you have to attend every event you’re invited to (I’ll get to that later). I’m just saying you won’t find anyone to connect with if you never leave your house.
This is so simple. But when you show up to the event or party, just smile. You don’t even have to say anything to anyone, or be overkill about it, but just look pleasant. Don’t stand against the back wall, arms crossed, with a scowl on your face. Just look open and approachable.
Research shows this posture (creating a smile with your face) actually changes your brian chemistry, and gives you positive feelings about people and circumstances, and makes you more open to whatever might happen.
As a happy benefit, there’s a good chance you won’t have to start a conversation with anyone. The conversation will likely come to you.
3. Start the conversation
Just stick out your hand and say, “Hi, my name is Justin. What’s yours?” It might seem terrifying, but don’t spend too much time thinking what happens after you ask that person’s name. Just ask their name, and see where the conversation goes.
4. Assume you’re not the only one
Assume you’re not the only one who is a little nervous to be there. Assume you’re not the only one who can’t think of what to say, or who stumbles in conversation. Assume you’re not the only one who is an introvert. Assuming this will make you more likely to make the first move.
What if that person across the room was as nervous as you were? What would you say to them?
Chances are you would smile reassuringly, reach out your hand, and say hello.
5. Introduce people
As an introvert it is much easier to introduce other people to each other than it is to be the sole owner of every relationship you carry.
Sometimes, when I introduce two people, I do so knowing full well that their friendship will become deeper or more substantial than my relationship with either or both of those people. I’m totally comfortable with that.
True networking isn’t about meeting people, its about connecting them.
6. Create space to recharge
If you’re a true blue introvert (like I am) it doesn’t matter how “good” you get at networking, it will still feel like work to you. You’ll still need to make space before and after events to recoup and recharge.
After a big event, I always try to take at least one day where I have extra space and quiet before I jump back into working and being around people. After a smaller event, I might only ned a few ours.
The same goes before events. I just like to give myself enough time to feel rested and prepared.
So be strategic about the events you attend. You don’t have to be at every single one. Know yourself well enough to know when you truly need rest, and allow yourself to rest. But push yourself out of your normal routine and what is comfortable to you to become better at networking.
You won’t regret it.