If you’re the shy and reserved type, you’ll know all too well that the ‘one size fits all’ approach of most networking tips can leave you feeling more daunted than self-assured. However meeting and engaging new people isn’t just an extrovert’s game.
These confidence-boosting tips will have you making contacts, impressing colleagues and winning people over in no time, in your own way.
Do your prep
If you find that you get a little nervous talking to new people at events, it’s a good idea to do some prep beforehand. Prepare some general open-ended questions such as “How did you get started in your line of work?” and “What do you enjoy most about what you do?”.
On the way to each event, think of some interesting things to share about yourself, your experience, and your job to help keep the conversation flowing. If you’re really stuck, do a quick news search and grab the headlines for the day to make sure you’re not drawing a blank if weather, sports or current affairs come up in conversation.
Make networking a habit
The more networking situations you put yourself in, the easier it becomes. Instead of constantly debating whether you’ll attend a networking or social event, make a deal with yourself that you’ll attend at least two events a month. It doesn’t matter if it’s a casual Friday night work drinks or a big conference – every event has networking potential. If there’s nothing planned for the next fortnight, make an effort to invite a work colleague or acquaintance out for coffee or lunch.
Use being a good listener to your advantage
You don’t necessarily have to be the loudest or most talkative person in the room to build a connection with someone. Introverts are often excellent listeners, which in turn leads to them asking more thoughtful questions. This can work to your advantage as people are much more likely to enjoy talking to someone who is listening and displaying genuine interest in what they have to say, as opposed to someone who just steers the conversation to themselves.
Give yourself permission to leave
Extended periods of social interaction can often be draining for introverts. To help combat this, give yourself a set time frame to stay at any networking event. Once your allocated time is up assess how you’re feeling.
If you’re enjoying yourself, hang around for a bit longer. If not, you won’t feel guilty about leaving. It’s far better to stay at an event with maximum energy for a small period of time as opposed to forcing yourself to stay for hours and trying to engage people when you’re mentally exhausted.
Time your networking
If you know you’re at your best in the morning then arrange to meet a new contact for breakfast as opposed to a drink after work. Strategically timing your networking events will yield better results as you’re much more likely to build a good rapport with someone when you’re feeling lively and energetic.
Not all networking has to be done face-to-face. You can join online groups to meet new people within your field and if you’re studying, be sure to utilise online forums to keep in contact with your fellow students. Also, don’t underestimate the power of networking with existing contacts. Make the effort to stay in touch with former tutors and lecturers, work colleagues, mentors, and employers via email and professional networks. Staying top of mind of your existing network could lead to new opportunities later on.
Aim for quality not quantity
If you walk away from an event with fewer contacts compared to your more extroverted colleagues, don’t let it get you down. When it comes to networking, remember that it’s about quality not quantity. It’s far more beneficial to your career in the long run if you have a few quality contacts that you’re able to dedicate time to establishing a solid professional connection with, as opposed to having an overflowing address book of people you may have spoken to once and never contacted again.