Networking for Introverts + A Giveaway

I am reading "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain right now and as I turn each page I find more of myself and more explanations for why I do what I do and feel what I feel. Things are becoming really clear to me and I have started to notice that some of the things I do thinking it is annoying I have to do them are actually really powerful tools that all introverts could use. I have also noticed things that I do which in the past have made me feel bad or like there was something wrong with me, that are perfectly normal for introverts. I am learning how to use my introversion to it's full potential instead of shaming myself for not fitting the Extrovert Ideal.

An Introvert’s Guide to Networking

One of the biggest things that I think a lot of Introverts struggle with is the idea of networking. Whether it is attending an event for the soul purpose of networking or just going to an event with a lot of people you don't know (such as your boyfriends company retreat, which is what I had this last weekend). There is no denying that networking is very important in the world we live, but sometimes the idea of it can feel overwhelming or scary to someone who prefers to spend their Friday nights curled up with a good book instead of out at a loud club. Let me be clear really quick, being an introvert does not mean someone does not enjoy being around other people, it simply means they get overwhelmed with the sensory overload that is a big event much quicker than an extrovert will. Characteristically introverts take in a lot more information at any given time, they notice every detail and noise and person in a place, so their bucket of how much they can handle seems to fill up a lot quicker than their extroverted counterparts.

After reading Quiet and articles like this one on Networking for Introverts, and experiencing a lot of these things myself I have put together a list of some things I have learned to do, that work for me, and some that I am still learning to do all of which help to ease the anxiety that can be associated with networking events when you are a more Introverted person.

  • One good connection at a networking event IS a success. Sometimes I feel like when I go to a networking event that I am supposed to get hundreds (ok that might be a slight exaggeration) of business cards and connect with a ton of people. That thought alone can make me feel like not going in the front door at all. I try to remind myself now that if I walk out of the event with one or two new connections that I succeeded. Similarly I used to feel bad if I found someone who was easy for me to talk to and then spent most of the event talking to them because I wasn't networking with anyone else, but I have come to realize that this one deep connection can be more powerful than 15 surface level connections.
  • Focus on one-on-one conversations. Large crowds make me feel nervous and uncomfortable, they pull all my confidence out of me and make me unsure of myself. Instead of forcing myself to push through this deep rooted fear and jump into the middle of a big group of people I have learned to focus on one-on-one conversations. I find other people who are standing alone (or in groups of two if no one is alone) and talk to them. This small group makes me feel more comfortable and allows me to not completely lose myself in the event.
  • Wear something fabulous. It is no secret that I love fashion and I am a firm believer that the right outfit can make you feel like a million bucks, but that isn't why I try to wear something fabulous when I go to these events. I have a pair of shoes that I literally cannot wear without having someone comment on them and I wear them to a large percentage of the networking events I attend. Why? Because someone complimenting my shoes (or a necklace, dress, shirt, etc.) is the easiest and most comfortable conversation starter out there for me. When I am going to a networking event I always spend extra time picking out my outfit so that I look my best, feel confident, and hopefully will inspire people to compliment some piece I'm wearing and start a conversation with me.
  • Drink a lot (mostly water). A lot of times I will transition from an alcoholic beverage to water and back and forth while I am at networking events. I do this for two reasons, one because having something in my hand keeps me from feeling awkward and uncomfortable (I play with my hands a lot when I'm nervous) and two because the more I drink the more I have to pee, and bathroom breaks give me an opportunity to center myself. I have a pretty small bladder so it isn't hard to send myself to the bathroom multiple times during one event, and each of these trips has the double benefit of not only relieving my bladder, but also giving me a chance to regroup and check in on how I am doing with all the people around.
  • Research before the event. This is one I am still working on doing more, but I have seen the benefit and I want to continue to work on this for future networking opportunities. Knowing exactly what I am getting myself into helps a lot, for so many reasons. It sucks to be the only person who showed up to an active event wearing high heels and a short skirt, sticking out like a sore thumb is a great way to get more attention than you may be able to handle. When I say research though, I don't just mean about the event, I also mean about the people, who is speaking, who will be attending? Reaching out to a few people before hand by email or on social media means that when you show up you have an easy conversation starter with these people eliminating the awkward small talk.
  • Instagram and Twitter are always helpful. I know it is generally not considered good/appropriate to spend time on your phone around others, but most events these days also have instagram accounts, twitter handles, and hashtags associated with them so tweeting or instagramming about being at an event while you are there is pretty normal behavior. Use this to your advantage! Whenever I am feeling really awkward or uncomfortable at an event I just whip out my phone, snap a photo, and get on social media. It gives me the opportunity to relax a bit and look less awkward while I am standing around.
  • The early bird makes the easy connection. I learned this one by mistake actually, but although it can be a bit uncomfortable standing in a large room with a total of 5 people in it right when the event starts, it can also be really nice. Right at the beginning of an event most people haven't grouped off yet and are all standing around individually which makes it easier to jump in and make that first connection. A little later on the event will be filled with people and everyone will be in groups so finding someone standing alone to talk to will be much more difficult.
  • You don't have to do it all. Sometimes it feels like the events and invitations are piling up around me and I feel this need to attend them all and do everything. I have to remind myself that I am much better at one event a week than I am at events three days in a row. This isn't always within my control, but I try not to schedule myself to do something every day for long periods of time (especially if I will be out of town the weekend afterwards) because I know that these events can be draining and I need time to rejuvenate before I can get the most out of the next event.
  • With all of these things in mind I feel like I can get the most out of a networking event without feeling completely uncomfortable. What other things do you do to help ease the anxiety that can come along with networking events?

    Have you tried any of these things before, how did they work for you?
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