Did you know that a third to nearly half of the population are introverts? And for those introverts involved in entrepreneurship, networking is one of the most challenging parts of the job.
Due to their low tolerance of loud environments and social stimulation (compared to extroverts who thrive off of it), introverts often dread having to network–especially at high profile or large events. Moreover, networking can be intimidating for introverted women who work in male-dominated industries or are trying to assert their creative value in a vastly logic-driven business culture.
Thankfully, there are some simple strategies that can make the whole ordeal more tolerable–and, dare I even say–enjoyable.
Prioritize one-on-one or small group meetings
If you’re an introvert, you likely tend to feel overwhelmed at large social gatherings. Who do you talk to first? What’s the social etiquette for inserting yourself into a group conversation? Instead of forcing yourself to endure unnecessary stress, attend small, focused networking events or schedule one-on-one coffee meetings whenever possible. On top of being less overwhelming, these kinds of social interactions encourage deeper conversations–which is exactly what introverts love.
Make it personal
Many introverts hate small talk; small talk is a waste of time and our finite reserves of social energy. Don’t be afraid to share (but don’t overload) personal facts or insights whenever appropriate and see where the conversation goes. Maybe you’ll end up making a new friend.
Pencil in time to charge/recharge your mental batteries
Any type of social activity is a drain on an introvert’s energy, so make sure to allow time in your schedule to rest before or after a networking event. This will do wonders for your mental health by preventing you from burning out.
Flex those fingers and start typing, girl
You mean I don’t have to leave my house or physically talk to anyone to network? Heck yeah! Social media networking is an excellent avenue for introverts, especially those who struggle with social anxiety. Join a Facebook group for professionals in your industry or link up with someone via LinkedIn. It’s an easy (and painless) way to introduce yourself and keep up with your connections’ accomplishments.
Honour your boundaries
All introverts have their own unique threshold for social interaction. Get to know it. Then, make a conscious decision to honour it. If your phone is running at 10 percent battery, you’d likely run to the nearest electrical outlet to recharge it. Same deal goes for you (minus the outlet because electrocution isn’t fun). Socializing is often a performance for introverts and it’s hard to perform well when you’re not well-rested.
Play to your strengths
Introverts tend to be thoughtful, observant, insightful, and excellent listeners. Use these strengths to your advantage when networking. Own your introversion. Pretending you’re extroverted is more exhausting than interacting with people on your own terms. Plus, you’ll have a better chance at forming authentic relationships if you’re your true, introverted self.
Set a goal for yourself
Networking can feel easier when you arrive mentally prepared with (achievable) goals. For example, if you normally feel nervous or awkward at social events, make a point to engage at least one person in conversation. Set a goal to give your business card to at least 3 people. Try to approach many new people to introduce yourself. A little challenge can go a long way for personal improvement, and setting tangible goals is a way to achieve that.
Do your homework
Socializing isn’t commonly an introvert’s forte, so there tends to be some level of anxiety that accompanies the networking process. A great way to prepare for a meeting or networking event is to research the person/people you’re meeting. Nowadays, most people have their lives on social media and many have a LinkedIn account handy. You don’t have to find out what they like to eat for lunch, but it’s useful to learn about their area of expertise and their accomplishments beforehand so that you have conversation topics ready.
When executed successfully, networking reaps many benefits. A few of those benefits include finding support groups in your industry, getting exposure for your business, increasing your brand awareness, and obtaining word of mouth references. The bottom line is (pun intended), don’t skip it! It’s okay if networking will never be your favourite part of your job, introverts, but not hating it is definitely within the realms of possibility if you tailor it to your preferences.