There may be nothing more frightening than the idea of networking for introverts. All sorts of horrible thoughts and reactions run through your mind more than likely.
Does this sound like you?
Fear not my fine friends! There are some solutions designed just for you and none of them involve drugs or alcohol. (My attempt at keeping you calm)
Here are steps that can take you from fear and loathing to neutral (I think “love” might be too much to expect):
- Plan your energy. Being around people depletes your energy and that’s part of what makes parties and networking events so diabolical. Plan to rest and restore both before and after your event. This way, you’ll be at “peak performance” while you attend.
- Give yourself a time limit. When you go to these things, you’re usually thinking of how to get out of them. Plan ahead and give yourself permission to go and stay for a set amount of time. You can always stay longer if you feel like it. By setting a time limit, the event won’t seem like such an unending activity.
- You’re in training. This skill did not come naturally to you. You have to build a skill. When you’re building a skill, you are going to feel uncomfortable during your learning curve but it pass as long as you are really approaching this as learning. This also means you must study and practice to develop a skill. Think of the next party you go to as your student-teaching assignment.
- Start Small. Being around so many talking people can suck the life out of most introverts. If you add on top of that the idea of trying to talk to most of them, it’s a recipe for a system failure. When going to an event, focus on trying just one new thing to improve your networking skill, and then you’re done.
- Make a goal. I have found that it is less overwhelming to give myself a goal of how many people I will have meaningful conversations with. It makes chatting with people a bit more purposeful. When I hit that goal, I feel like I’ve done a good job.
- Figure out your fear. Part of what makes fear so yucky is that it’s kind of random and free floating. When you can isolate the specifics, it’s tends to be less impactful. Even if the fear doesn’t shrink to your satisfaction, now you know what the problem is, you can muster your resources to solve it.
- Get a “wing-man”. This is usually saved for finding a date but there is some wisdom in it to apply to networking. Your comfort level for simply just going and being there will be much better if you know ahead of time you have a friendly face to comfort you. The only thing to remember is to not glue yourself to your wingman.
- Don’t compare. You will drive yourself crazy if you try to use someone else as a benchmark for your networking behavior. We all have our strengths and weakness’. Be as good as YOU can be and be as good as your career goals demands.
- Focus on the other person. It’s interesting just how self-conscious we can get in our interactions with others. If you focus on the other person, it’s impossible to be self-conscious. It will also reduce your stress. Be there to figure out how you can help the other person and in doing that, you help yourself.
I’d like to finish this piece with one undeniable truth about networking for introverts. Most people, not just introverts, don’t like networking events. We all like relationship so think of it this way: other than your family, everyone you know used to be a stranger.
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