I know I need to network but I’m shy, I’m an introvert, I’m not good at small talk
These are common statements I hear from people who want to network, but can’t seem to do it. Networking is tedious for so many people and the introverts seem to have a hard time because they say I am shy, but being an introvert isn’t just about being shy. It’s about your energy. You are drained easily if you are around large crowds for too long, you need to retreat into a corner, and it can be overwhelming for you. That is ok, but it does not mean you can’t network or be successful.
Personally, I love to network because I like exchanging with people and yes, I am an extrovert but there are plenty of times I am just as happy by myself as in a crowd. When I am at events, I try to help the people sitting in the corners who look like they aren’t sure what to say or do. This can be an introvert or extrovert. I just look for the people who look like they need help and I walk them to another person or a small group and introduce them and get them engaging. If you’re an extrovert reading this, I encourage you to do the same.
When it comes to networking, especially if it is at an event, convince yourself to go to the event! That is where you start. You know you want to grow your career so there is a reason for you to go to events and talk to people. Remember your why. You don’t want to stay stuck in your career, right? You want to be happy and fulfilled in your career so there is a reason to go to the event. Yes, your bed is comfy and you’re still binge-watching season 4 of whatever show is on Netflix, but that won’t help move you forward to the spot you deserve to be in and yes you deserve to be in that spot.
Here are a few ways to help you network and not lose all your energy.
- Attend smaller events – look for events that won’t overwhelm you with their size; intimate events will be easier on your energy.
o To make the events even more bearable for yourself. Set a time limit for how long you need to be there or set a goal. I would suggest 90 minutes because I know you are thinking ok, I can go for under an hour.
o If you want to set a goal, connect with 5 people before you can leave the event if you are ok on time. This way you get some value from the event and won’t just be a fixture in the space.
- Network virtually – Use LinkedIn. You can have meaningful conversations on this platform and transition into a virtual coffee or a Zoom call. You will have complete control over your energy.
o Send a message to someone in your connections about why you wanted to connect, open a dialogue see if they are open to some questions and
- When attending conferences, give yourself the necessary recharge time and use your energy in small bits.
o The day can be long and it’s already physically draining for anyone so try to use your energy in-between sessions to network and do 15 minutes at a time if there is no reception or networking event.
o If there is a reception or networking opportunity tied to the conference, then recharge in-between sessions so that you can attend and stay for 2 hours without sapping so much of your energy,
I know you are like, but no wait I still can’t do that because even if I go to an event, I just don’t feel comfortable or know what to say. I see groups of people and I don’t feel comfortable interrupting the group dynamic. That is ok, just walk up and smile and listen. Someone will acknowledge you and go hi, join the conversation or say hi, do you mind if I join you? If they say no then guess what? You really didn’t want to talk to those people anyway.
Remember being an introvert is not a reason for why you cannot do something, it just means you have to do it a different way. There are many successful introverts and you can be one of them too.
About the author:
Vakassia “VJ” Niles is founder of The Niles Group and a Strategist that helps midcareer professionals develop their careers with essential tools and strategies. With 20-plus years of experience across four industries, she is able to help professionals pivot in their careers, excel in their companies, build professional brands, and network effectively for business growth. She’s a contributing author in “Just Me: The Business Woman’s Personal Branding Guide” and frequently speaks on career and professional development, pivots, career support systems, sponsorship, and networking. Her past speaking engagements include Panasonic, Tesla, GlaxoSmithKline, and WiseHER.