Introverts are not necessarily antisocial. Introverts can actually be great in social settings. I think I’m a good example of that. I’m very personable and enjoy talking to people. I can walk into a room full of strangers and WORK the room. However, for those of us who sometimes need a break, but still want to maximize on our networking, these strategies are a great way to go. – By Jess Evora
First, Why Everyone NEEDS to Network
Sean Anchor is a researcher focused on human potential. In his 2018 book, Big Potential, he explains that the only way to reach your full potential is to collaborate with others, support others, and surround yourself with successful people. Check out his great podcast interview on the topic here!
There is simply no way of getting around networking if you want to make your dreams a reality. But what is networking? It is essentially the art of building your professional circle of support in order to increase your social capital.
Social Capital: “the resources available to people and entities because of their networks. The assets we possess by virtue of the social relations that we develop and maintain make up social capital.” – Business Market Review
So, let’s increase that social capital!
Strategy #1: Go to a Conference
Many introverts don’t like conferences, especially when your company sends you solo. However, you can do a great deal of networking without having to attend a single social event at the conference.
Be intentional in attending all the educational sessions. Find the presenters with whom you’re interested in speaking. Do your research on the speaker(s) prior to the session.
1. Have at least two thoughtful questions ready BEFORE you attend a session.
The first question should be asked in front of the entire audience. Be sure to state your name, title and institution before asking the question. This gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself to everyone in the room, and display your engagement through your thoughtful question.
The second question should be asked immediately after the session has ended. Go up to the presenter for a 1:1 conversation which you can start with your prepared question.
Then ask for their business card and send them an email THAT day to schedule a follow-up conversation in a 1:1 setting. If I don’t send an email THAT day, there’s a 90% chance, I’ll never send it. But that might just be me. Also, if you’re not ready for a follow-up conversation, at least add them on LinkedIn THAT DAY, and be sure to include a short, personalized message in your invitation.
If you go to as many sessions as possible and connect with the presenters, it’s possible to have a fruitful experience and make meaningful connections despite avoiding every social event provided.
PRO-TIP: Read the description of each session. If you really don’t feel comfortable talking to people, the description often gives you an idea of how much potential audience participation will be required, like small group discussions for example.
Strategy #2: Volunteer
For any networking events you may want to attend, reach out to the coordinator(s) well in advance of the event to see if they need volunteers for anything.
Often securing a specific role that you can play at an event can allow you to avoid the energy-draining situation of having to simply walk into a room of strangers and start up a random conversation.
Volunteering at a networking event will give you something to do. People will be more likely to go up to you (rather than you to them) since they’ll think you know what you’re doing. You’ll also likely make connections with other volunteers.
And if you don’t end up talking to anyone else at the event, at least you are guaranteed to have talked to the volunteer coordinator, haha!
If you can’t find events at which to volunteer, you could also find organizations & associations with which to volunteer.
- VolunteerMatch.org: This site can help you find opportunities across the country.
- EventBrite.com: a great place to see what’s going on and how you can get involved
- Ask your supervisor for suggestions regarding associations you could join related to your career interests.
- Find a mentor. They can definitely introduce you to people who can help.
Strategy #3: Maximize Your Networking on LinkedIn
The best part about LinkedIn is that you don’t have to meet people in person. You don’t even have to talk to them over the phone. You can carefully curate what you want to say and how you develop your brand as a professional, and you can do it all online.
If you’re not doing a good job of networking in person, poor some more love into yourLinkedIn profile. LinkedIn has grown into more of a Facebook-like application. So make sure you “like” other individual’s posts, and maybe event write your own posts. And at the very least, make sure your profile is complete and up-to-date at all times.
With LinkedIn you don’t have to worry about thinking on the spot, or socializing with anyone. You also don’t have to remember anyone’s email address or even save a business card. LinkedIn does it all for you!
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can also be used as professional networking platforms as well.
Strategy #4: Network with people you already know.
Knowing people isn’t enough. You have to actually tell them what you’re trying to do, and then ask for help. And remember, you don’t have to share every detail of your grand master plan if you’d rather not. You can just give people an idea of what you’re trying to do.
Think about your already-existing social network: your friends, your classmates, your colleagues at work. They are not your competition. Your only competition is yourself. These people should serve as your inspiration. If you don’t have a lot of inspirational friends or coworkers in your life, you should consider changing your personal circle, or maybe get a new job.
Tell your friends what you’re trying to do. Share your goals. Don’t be embarrassed or worried about how grand your goals seem. As long as you believe you can do it, you’re good.
Don’t ONLY network with people in your industry. You never know who can help. You may have a friend in the hospitality industry who might have a coworker who is married to a personal trainer who can help you open up the gym you’ve always wanted to start. You just never know!
This is why sharing your goals with your friends and family is an easy, yet efficient way to network.
Strategy #5: Create your own networking event
If you’d rather not go to a networking event, create your own. Have the professional network come to you on your terms.
You’ll be running the event, so you can create the experience you’d prefer to have.
- Once everyone has arrived, you can introduce yourself as the host so everyone will know who you are without you having to introduce yourself to everyone individually.
- You will also always have a leading sentence to start a conversation with anyone in the room: “Hello, my name is Jess. I’m hosting this event so I just wanted to introduce myself and thank you for coming…” BOOM! You are good to go.
- You don’t need money to host an event. You can find a local community organization or a venue willing to host. You can use free online platforms like EventBrite, Facebook, or Instagram to get the word out and have people register. You already have everything you need to create a successful event to expand your professional network. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.
And with that, I hope you’ve discovered some networking strategies that fall within your comfort zone, because we all need to take baby steps sometimes.
However, when you’re ready, I do hope that you do find the time and the courage to step outside of your comfort zone, and boldly walk into a room full of strangers. You may find that it’s really not that energy-draining after all.
However, in the meantime, you can get started on one of the 5 networking strategies above ; )
Good luck expanding your circle!
US & OUR CULTURE
A blog that celebrates the diversity and the impact of today’s young professionals
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
– African Proverb