The era that we are currently living in is a time for unlimited networking opportunities. Used in the right way, they can pave the road to realization, fulfillment, and success.
Extroverts are decidedly predisposed towards these opportunities. By nature, they can easily connect with and assimilate to various kinds of people and groups. For introverts, this remains to be much of a challenge. Many still find themselves feeling awkward and stifled amid loud, busy social situations.
This doesn't need to be the end, however. One Google search will show you many examples of introverts who are currently enjoying great success.
So how can you be an introvert and still be able to maximize the professional networking opportunities you encounter every day? Read on to find out.
1. Determine your purpose for networking
The first thing you need to be clear on is your goal. Do you want to find mentors? Build new friendships? Find a supportive community? Discover new avenues to climb the success ladder? Understanding your personal intentions is key to pulling this off successfully.
2. Zone yourself right into success
Having the right mindset is another important ingredient. You have to be your own fan and convince yourself that you can do this. Tell yourself that you're excited to meet, greet and connect. As an introvert, it takes some effort to come out of your shell and be in the zone where you're ready to jump in with the crowd, but it's worth it!
3. Small steps count
As with any other endeavors, the first step is always the hardest. When you've been cooped up in your bubble for a long time, venturing out to an environment that you're not used to can be quite daunting. Don't be afraid to start small. Participate in online discussions. Join an interactive webinar. Initiate a connection request. Any move you make towards your networking goal matters, no matter how small.
4. Ask for an introduction
Now that you've made the first step, it's time to follow through. Seek out people you already know and are reasonably comfortable with and ask for an introduction to other people they know who may share the same interests as you. You may be surprised at how far your existing connections can get you.
5. Find a Networking Buddy
As much as you love your own company, having someone around with similar goals as you can make your networking experience easier and more enjoyable. Going to an event? Bring a friend. Or if you're feeling more adventurous, be "that person" and help others feel comfortable and empowered. Chances are you are not the only one in the room who feels awkward in a crowd. Like attracts like, so you will surely be able to find at least one person who needs the same social confidence boost as you do.
6. Have your personal introduction on hand
Small talk may be painful for most introverts, but it's nonetheless necessary for widening your network. To smooth the edge off of this particular discomfort, have a short but interesting intro at the ready. Instead of one that just tells people your title, your introduction should briefly but remarkably state what it is that you actually do. Being ready will give you that confidence boost that you need.
One of your strengths as an introvert is your ability to listen more and talk less. Use this to your advantage. Express genuine interest in what other people are saying, and ask the right questions that can stimulate a healthy and engaging conversation.
8. Just keep going
Practice makes perfect. No one becomes a networking aficionado on the first or the second go. For introverts, the bar is a little bit higher than usual. Don't let this stop you. Continue to look out for new events you can join, new circles you can be part of. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. Along the way, you will be able to attune yourself to finding the networks that fit your goals just right.
9. Value your existing networks
It's easy to get caught in the excitement and novelty of a fresh group or a new community, but by no means neglect the ones you already are a member of. People are bound to trust people they already know and are comfortable with instead of ones they just met. These are the people who brought you to where you are. They are your best bet at making more solid relationships and as such should be nurtured and prioritized.
10. Be Yourself
Just because you have the need to network doesn't mean you have to change and be an extrovert. Some things you just can't force. You may even run into the possibility of losing yourself in trying to be someone else. In the process, you could also put your existing networks and relationships on the line. This is a gamble that you do not want to make. Just be you!
Being an introvert doesn't need to be a hindrance to your ability to build lasting connections. It's all about setting a goal, building a plan, leveraging your strengths, and following through.
Not sure where to start? Women Empowering Women Now is a community that upholds kindness, empowerment, and support. Here you can find what you need to build the lasting business relationships that you're dreaming of while celebrating the best of who you are.
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Doreen Dilger, Certified Business Coach, Author, Artist and Founder of Women Empowering Women Now.