Here’s a quick question for you to consider: How often has your boss asked you to go to a networking event or some type of relationship building opportunity? Organization’s rely on their leaders to know the right people and resources to solve business issues, drive results, and serve customers. This necessitates that leaders create trusted relationships externally, as well as internally. Often, the strength of an individual’s network can differentiate between a manager and a leader.
Nevertheless, we often find ourselves caught up in the execution of deliverables and ensuring we meet our client’s needs, leaving little time to deliberately focus on identifying and attending opportunities to meet others outside our customer base. Add to this the fact that some people – myself included – are introverts, or have what we would call introverted tendencies, and networking might never happen.
And yes, you read that correctly. I am a consultant who very much enjoys working with clients, but is not necessarily energized by social interactions with others. After a full day of interviews, I am tired, whereas some of my colleagues find the experience invigorating. As a result, the idea of networking, or even the less scary term “relationship management”, is not particularly motivating for me, even though I know how important it is. And I know I’m not the only one.
This brings us to the point of this series on networking for introverts:
- First, and foremost, this is an attempt to provide tools, strategies, and resources to individuals who also struggle with networking because it is not inherently motivating for them. Some of these suggestions will be best practices, while others may be lessons learned from this consultant as she attempts to expand her network.
- It is also an opportunity for us to poke fun at ourselves, to show readers our failures, and the lessons we learned from them, to remind you that it’s ok to go out there and make a mistake, the important part is that you’re out there.
- Lastly, this series will hold me accountable to the un-motivating and extraordinarily important task of networking. In order to share my networking experiences with you, I have to have experiences.
So, without further ado, My First Networking for Introverts Tip:No, really.
This may sound over-simplified. How does bringing a friend or colleague help someone network? Doesn’t having a familiar face prevent you from interacting with others because you cling to that individual like a life preserver?
And…you might be right. However, it’s a strategy that I have found helpful for several reasons. First, though, let me provide you with some context:
Networking Event #1: I arrived at a conference, knowing no one, and realized only then that it might have been helpful to have come with a colleague. Almost everyone at the conference had come in twos or threes and I felt like the odd person out. My saving grace was the fact that people were seated at round tables. I was basically forced to choose a seat and talk to a stranger. And while I DID talk to the individuals sitting next to me, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to speak with other people.
So, how could the buddy system have helped me? More importantly, how can the buddy system help you?
1. Simply knowing there will be a face I recognize goes a long way towards increasing my comfort in networking situations. If all else fails, I at least know one person I can talk to.
The risk here is not becoming tied to that individual. Attending an event together, but sitting at different tables is one potential solution to this problem. Additionally, I’d encourage you to have someone who will push you to venture out and meet new people.
2. Having a colleague attend also prevents an introvert like me from skipping portions of the event, or the event entirely. They can hold you accountable.
My recommendation? Similar to the suggestion above, pick a colleague who will challenge you to show up and stay, despite how desperately you may want to leave.
3. Like many introverts, when placed in a crowded room full of people, I try to find a quiet corner or hidden alcove to “recharge my batteries”. By bringing a buddy, I create a situation where I know this person, trust this person, and feel comfortable with them which allows me to re-energize after talking with many individuals I don’t know.
Networking for introverts can seem like a daunting and generally unpleasant task. But bringing a friend or colleague along with you isn’t cheating, especially if your buddy will push you out of your comfort zone.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks as I continue Networking for Introverts.
What’s something you wish you’d done when you started networking? Have any tips for me? Leave a comment below.