From shy to fly: networking tips for introverts
Have you ever walked into a Careers Fair or a networking event and found yourself too anxious to approach industry professionals or start conversations with unfamiliar faces? Well, you are not alone. Between one third and one half of all people are introverts, according to Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
From the day we start university, we are told that networking holds the key to career success. However, for many introverts, the prospect of building connections with new people can be truly terrifying.
If you are someone who is intimidated by highly stimulating social settings, how can you reap the benefits of networking without falling victim to anxiety?
Here are 5 tips that you can leverage to conquer the world of networking!
1. Take baby steps – accept your personality
Be forgiving of yourself. If you find it difficult to mingle in large crowds then don’t hurl yourself into huge networking events that your fellow extrovert colleagues may feel more comfortable attending.
Start small. If approaching one new person scares you, then you can start by practising role-plays with your friends and family. Pretend they are new industry professionals and practise how you would talk to them. By doing this, you can gain confidence and even receive feedback regarding your communication style.
Once you have mastered this, you can start to talk to new people in a safe environment. For example, you can ask your manager to give you an additional customer service responsibility, or you can simply initiate a chat to someone in class who you don’t really know, but see every week in your lecture.
If you are feeling anxious, take networking step-by-step. Start with a smile, and let a friend or a colleague help you out to build rapport.
2. Prepare conversation fillers
If you’re nervous about dumping a load of word vomit onto someone, then make sure you prepare some conversation fillers to draw upon when you are stuck for words.
Icebreakers and personal stories are always a great way to ignite interest and build familiarity and comfortability with a new person.
3. Be honest
Introverted personalities are more common than you may imagine – it is very likely that the new person you’re meeting may be an introvert themselves.
If it feels appropriate, be honest and tell them how you are feeling. This will allow the other person to empathise with you, and will inspire them to feel comfortable if they are nervous as well!
4. Make use of online networking platforms
First, prepare an informational interview script using the Networking Workbook on CareerHub that can be used as a template when you reach out to people online.
Chatting on these platforms will allow you to make multiple connections in the comfort of a familiar space.
5. Market yourself
Nerves can often translate into closed body language. Jittery movements and cold facial expressions can scare off potential connections and make you seem unapproachable.
The solution is simple: be proud of yourself.
Despite being introverted, you have taken a huge leap outside of your comfort zone to network with strangers.
Revel in your achievement, and stand tall. Smile, and relax your arms and shoulders. Make sure you show open body language. This will allow everyone to know that you are friendly and approachable, and will invite new people to strike a conversation with you.
This way, you don’t have to worry about approaching them, as potential connections will be coming straight to you instead!
Don’t feel disheartened – being an introvert does not hinder you from networking successfully. All you need to do is adjust your networking approach to suit your personality, and take the process step-by-step.
Trust in yourself and the process, and you will find yourself surrounded by a large web of colleagues, mentors and industry professionals who will help mould your professional self.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels