The Introvert's Guide To Networking In The Real World

by Unmana Datta September 27th, 2011 

introvert

Would you rather be home with a book than go to a bar after work with your colleagues? Did that wedding you went to on Saturday exhaust you so much you stayed home alone all Sunday to recuperate? Does the thought of a networking event event send shivers down your spine? Congratulations: youre an introvert.

And I dont mean that sarcastically.

Im an introvert, and thats a good thing. It means you listen to yourself more, you have long conversations in your own head that are better than any you ever have with other people (heck, I wrote a novel about that!); you thrive on solitude.

But it also means you sometimes (often) envy that smooth-talking salesperson in your office or your enthusiastic party planner friend. You want to be them and have a crowd of adoring fans friends around you listening to every word you say. Besides, even an introvert needs friends and how are you ever going to get any if you stay home listening to angsty music?

And you can. You might never actually get rid of the fear before a party, but it can be a flutter of nervous anticipation instead of a full-on anxiety attack.

I remember reading that the big difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts think before they speak and extroverts think while they speak. That gives you an advantage: while the nearest extrovert is boring everyone with a long tale about how he won a sparring match with his ex-girlfriends mother, you can jump in and make everyone laugh and change the subject at the same time with a well-timed remark. (The key word here of course, is well-timed: we introverts spend so much time coming up with the perfect comeback that by the time were ready that pesky passenger is long off the bus and weve missed our stop.)

So how do you get there? Here are some tips.

Challenge Yourself

It isnt easy, but you have to try. Step out of your comfort zone.

One of my resolutions this year was to meet at least one new person every month. With three quarters of the year over, Ive admirably kept up to the goal and hopefully, made a few friends.

Even if you dont make lasting friends, every new person you meet will have something interesting to offer, some perspective or skill that you can learn from (or interesting friends you can then meet).

Start Small

shy

You dont have to go to a 50-people party right away.

Start small.

Maybe pop into the neighbors on Sunday for a quick chat? Join those colleagues at the bar, but tell them in advance that you have to leave in half an hour. A half hour isnt too scary now, is it?

Prepare

Going to a conference? Do your homework beforehand.

Find out everything you can about the speakers (and the attendees, if you can get a list). Make lists of people youd like to meet. Write down the witty things youd like to say to them. (Then throw the paper away. Resist the urge to whip it out of your pocket and read off it when you run into one of those people.)

Rehearse your elevator pitch. How will you introduce yourself so you sound cool? What will you say if someone asks what you do?

Set Rules

Then set yourself some rules.

For example, youll change seats every session and will introduce yourself to at least one person on either side of you.

As I mentioned, one rule I made this year was to meet someone new every month.

Set challenges that arent very difficult: think Ill smile at the barista while Im waiting for my coffee rather than Ill make a friend on the subway today.

Use Social Media

introvert-party

If youre more at home socializing behind a computer, use that to your advantage. If youre at an event, tweet away using the official hashtag. Have conversations on Twitter with the other people whore also busy tweeting: and then, during lunch, go find them and say hi. You already know them so its easy, right?

Comment on the blogs you like.

People are much more outspoken online, so youre more likely to know more about the real person more quickly. Find people whom you like and comment on their posts often. (Tell them you like their blog, not them"that would be creepy.)

Ive made friends through blogging, and once you meet them in person or even talk to them on the phone, theyre actual real-life friends, not just blogging friends.

Host

This is a bigger step and I wont recommend this unless youve conquered some of those smaller challenges. But take it from me"its easier for an introvert to host a party than to go to one.

If you go to a party, youre expected to be charming, and that is just scary. If you host, you invite people over the phone (or an evite!), prepare your house and make sure theres enough food and drink (especially drink. Have enough good drink and most of your guests wont care about anything else"or remember anything the next day). All of this is planning and shouldnt be too difficult for an introvert to do.

At the time of the party, all you need to do is smile and say a few words of welcome to each guest and introduce them to each other (if they dont know each other already). And thats most of the talking you have to do"with any luck, and if youve chosen the guests right (make sure each guest knows at least one other person, for example, and that at least a few of them are charming extroverts), theyll just talk and entertain each other. All you have to do is ensure their glasses and plates are filled (and that also gives you a great excuse to make off to the kitchen when you want to escape a conversation or just want a breather.)

So there you are, your six-step guide to faking it. Let me know how it goes!

See also:

howtocareforintroverts

How to care for introverts

Unmana Datta

Unmana is the co-founder of Markitty, a tool that recommends actions to improve your online marketing. She writes about marketing for startups and small businesses on the Markitty blog and can be found on Twitter @Unmana.

Markitty Blog

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4 Responses to “The Introvert's Guide To Networking In The Real World”

  1. CSpeno says:

    There are some great ideas here.I particularly like what you say about using social media to network by commenting on blogs you admire. I have made some "blogging friends" this year using that method. We have also exchanged guests posts on each other's blogs, which is also a great way to expand your own exposure.

    I would add that getting involved in some LinkedIn Groups will help you network and connect with people that share your interests also. There are some terrific groups on LI.

    All the best!

  2. [...] is especially for fellow introverts: don’t sit quietly in your corner during the sessions and hide in the restroom during lunch hour. [...]

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