Networking can be a challenging task for introverts. While extroverts generally have no problem engaging in small talk, offering a lavish corporate gift, or introducing themselves to new prospects in a conference full of strangers, introverts can feel awkward about all of the above and more.
Thankfully, all’s not lost. With the right strategies and mindset, introverts can build valuable professional connections just as well as their extroverted counterparts.
Below are six tips for doing so:
1. Set Clear Goals
Unlike extroverts who can ad-lib in social settings without thinking anything of it, introverts tend to need preparation. They excel when they know their goals and are clear on what they want to achieve at a meeting or networking event.
Getting clear on those goals before the event will keep your mind firmly focused on the bigger picture. Whether it’s reaching out to a mentor or exploring job opportunities, a clear goal will make your behavior more purposeful and effective.
2. Research and Prepare
As stated in the tip above, introverts usually excel when they’re well-prepared. The first step in that preparation is setting clear goals. The next is researching the event. If it’s an industry conference, learn the basic details of the event, the people who might be there, and the topics of conversation likely to arise.
Write out a few conversation starters. Then, practice them in the mirror or with close friends until they become second nature. This will reduce your anxiety and boost your confidence.
3. Network Online
In contrast to extroverts who get “charged” up by big social events, introverts get drained. They prefer small groups and one-to-one meetings. Unfortunately, in-person conferences with dozens or hundreds of attendees are anything but that. Luckily, the online world is full of networking opportunities.
Most people know LinkedIn, but there are plenty of alternative professional networking sites to explore. These networks allow you to make connections, start conversations, share your insights, and build up valuable relationships—all without the stress of attending huge events!
4. Listen Actively
Introverts tend to be great listeners, which is a hugely valuable networking skill. To improve that skill, consciously practice active listening. To start, ask open-ended questions and show genuine interest in what the other person is saying. Then, paraphrase what they say, repeat it back, and ask for confirmation rather than rushing in with your own ideas the moment they stop speaking.
Mastering this simple skill will endear you to a lot of people, fostering positive bonds that grow your professional network.
5. Focus on Quality
Introverts thrive when making deep, meaningful connections with a few people. Luckily, this preference is incredibly helpful in networking. Having a few strong relationships with key people is far more important than having the business cards and LinkedIn connections of hundreds of strangers.
Focusing on quality over quantity reduces the overwhelm of trying to meet as many people as possible. It also leads to more fruitful and lasting connections.
6. Check-in and Follow-Up
Networking isn’t a one-time thing. Just like personal relationships with spouses, friends, and parents, professional relationships require checking in and following up. For example, if you connected with someone at a conference, send them a brief thank-you message and check in from time to time.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to share relevant information with them or offer assistance if you think you could help. Over time, this continual contact can yield valuable opportunities.
Networking isn’t something you’re born with, but it is a skill you can learn. Although it may be easier for extroverts, introverts can be equally effective by practicing the six tips above.