Are you an introvert? Is the idea of networking uncomfortable for you? Does it give you anxiety or make you feel awkward? Do you feel that because you are an introvert, you will not be good at networking?
While you may feel that all of the above statements are true, they are only true because you allow them to be so. In this article on networking for introverts, I’m going to share tips and tricks on how you can excel at networking.
Think of Networking as a Muscle
Networking is a skill- almost like a muscle. A muscle gets stronger the more you exercise it. Similarly, the more you network- the better you become at it.
Think of the first time you tried anything new in a public setting (e.g., going to the gym, throwing a ball, speaking in front of people). That first instance of trying something new was always a little bit awkward, but it got easier and more enjoyable with practice and repetition.
You can, and you will, get better at networking over time. You just need to do it again and gain.
Potential Reasons You Don’t Like Networking
As an introvert, some of the reasons why you may not like the idea of networking:
- I have to talk to somebody: You actually have done this many times before so you are better at this than you realize. Consider your current and previous jobs, school life, dating life, socializing, etc. You have spoken to new people many times before. While you may not have loved the experience, you did it, you were successful at it, and you will continue to do so the rest of your career. You can do this!
- What am I going to say to them? I don’t like talking about myself?: This requires preparation. If you plan well in advance what you are going to say (e.g., your elevator pitch), what you are looking for (e.g., type of jobs you are searching for), where you’d like to work (e.g., list of companies you’ve considered), what you need from the person you are speaking too (e.g., introductions, recommendations, feedback on your approach, etc), you will be much more comfortable actually saying it during the call. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become about your pitch and the better you’ll feel about the process. Once you’ve completed it 3-4 times, you will have nailed it, and it’ll be a night and day difference in how you feel
- I am not comfortable asking for help: Put yourself in the shoes of the other person, the person who took the call to network with you. You have reached out to them, told them you are looking for a new role, told them you’d like to learn more about their company/role, etc. They have accepted the call, because they want to help you. If they didn’t want to help you, why did they take the call? Assume the best of the situation, not the worst
- What if I am being an inconvenience? Wasting their time? See above, if they took the meeting, they are willing to help you
- What if they cannot help me? So what? If they are unable to help, or unwilling, move on to the next person. This is why you need to build a long networking list. Networking is a volume game; the higher number of chances you take, the more likely you are to eventually have the meeting that helps you
- What if they’re a jerk, what if they’re rude to me? See above. I ask again, so what? Yes, it will be awkward and uncomfortable, but if for whatever reason the other person makes you feel uncomfortable, move on to the next networking conversation. Keep taking a chance until you find your winner
There are many more reasons why networking can be uncomfortable. They can mostly be categorized as limiting beliefs, or excuses that prevent you from taking the chance.
There is one thing that’s for certain. It definitely gets easier with practice; you just need to commit to doing it again and again.
How To Ease Yourself Into Networking
Pick some contacts to network with. Practice with your friends or family, ask for feedback and run your pitch until you’re comfortable with it.
It’s also a good idea to take some time and categorize the people you will network with as those who are low risk (uber friendly) vs. Those who are high risk (maybe more senior or higher stakes conversations). Work with the individuals in the low-risk category until you’re confident and ready to go after the high-stake candidates.
Don’t overthink this, make a list and give it a shot. You will surprise yourself with how quickly you improve at professional networking.