Networking can be a thrill to some of us and our worst nightmare to others. When it comes to socialising, some people naturally thrive in high-energy environments, while others prefer more subdued ones. And in this way, being an introvert or an extrovert isn't just a personal thing; it affects our work lives too, especially when it comes to making connections with others.
For introverts like myself, networking might feel like an energy-sapping chore. If you are an extrovert, though, you might see it as a fantastic opportunity to make new friends and stand out.
Just imagine if you could tailor your networking strategy to match your unique character. What if you could find methods that play to your strengths, whether you're introverted or extroverted, to help you do more than just get by but actually thrive when networking?
A few years back, I joined a networking group that focused on teaching us how to become better networkers. It was one of the best investments I ever made in my professional career. I wanted to share some of what I learned through that experience.
If you want to get better at networking, have a read; hopefully you'll find some tips on how to network using what comes naturally.
THE BIG PICTURE
When you're getting into networking, remember that being an introvert or extrovert comes with its own strengths. Instead of trying to fit a particular mould, adapt the process to suit your personal approach.
You can use what you know about yourself to help you make good connections and move up in your career. There will always be uncomfortable moments as you start your networking journey. But developing networking skills is one of the best ways to invest your energy. There's a lot to learn, but you'll be much better for it in the long run.
Looking back to lockdown and social distancing times, it is clear that networking has changed a lot, with digital communication and remote work taking centre stage. It's more important than ever to be authentic and find approaches that work best for you, whether that's one-on-one meetings or larger online events.
In plain terms, if you're an introvert, don't feel pressured to be the life of the party at networking events. Just focus on having meaningful conversations with a few people. If you're an extrovert, use your energy to connect with a wider audience, but be mindful of listening and creating space for others.
Networking isn't just about collecting contacts; it's about building relationships. The important thing is to be real and purposeful in your interactions, whether you like quiet one-on-one chats or lively group discussions.
Keep in mind that everyone's networking experience is different. Embrace your unique way and let it help you build meaningful connections that will enhance your life personally and professionally.
UNDERSTANDING INTROVERSION AND EXTROVERSION
We should keep in mind that both people who are outgoing and those who are more reserved bring their own special skills to the table. Outgoing people often find it easy to strike up conversations, while people who are more reserved are often good at sharing ideas and building strong connections. Understanding whether you're more reserved or outgoing is the first place to start.
Knowing yourself helps you network in a way that feels natural to you. If you're more reserved or outgoing, you can still improve your networking abilities by focusing on what you do best. If you tend to be more reserved, you might find success in having deeper, more impactful discussions. If you're outgoing, you may thrive in busy, energetic environments. Get in the habit of letting your natural communication style guide how you engage new contacts at events.
Here are some pointers to help you network like a pro:
- If you're more reserved, aim for quality over quantity. Focus on having fewer but more in-depth conversations that can lead to stronger professional relationships.
- If you're outgoing, use your energy to engage with more people, but also remember to listen actively and show genuine interest in what others have to say.
- Practice active listening, which involves paying close attention to the speaker, asking thoughtful questions, and giving feedback that shows understanding.
Confidence is key when networking. When you know your own style, whether it is shy or extroverted, you can confidently approach networking events and play to your strengths. Keep in mind that being genuine goes a long way towards establishing meaningful connections, so just be yourself.
NETWORKING STRATEGIES FOR INTROVERTS
Becoming more self-aware can help you network more effectively. If you tend to be more introverted, networking may surprisingly be a natural fit for you. Your ability to listen attentively and ask thought-provoking questions can make you an excellent conversationalist. In a lot of ways, this is like a superpower when it comes to making connections with new people.
Instead of trying to make a big impression at a large networking event, it might be worth looking for smaller, more intimate events where it would be easier to have deeper conversations. And a key thing to keep in mind is to focus on building relationships rather than just talking about your own business.
It's not about becoming an extrovert. You just have to use what comes naturally to your advantage.
NETWORKING STRATEGIES FOR EXTROVERTS
If you're an extrovert, your love for meeting people and starting chats is a big plus at networking events. Don't hesitate to use your social skills to get better at making business connections. Since you enjoy talking to others, getting to know new faces is simpler for you. Joining groups and starting conversations could help you become an expert networker. You can inspire other people through networking, which is a two-way street of giving and receiving. It is not all about winning, though; it is about contributing and creating an inclusive environment for others. You can make connections that last more than the event itself by leveraging your extroverted personality. That's the key to networking for someone who's extroverted.
Make sure your conversations go beyond the surface level. Do your best to give other people your undivided attention and listen carefully to what they have to say. It's not just about handing out business cards; it's about forming connections that could lead to opportunities, collaborations, or even friendships.
Remember to follow up with the people you meet. A simple "it was nice to meet you" email or message can mean a lot. Make sure you follow through on any promises you made to share information or introduce someone.
LEVERAGING STRENGTHS IN NETWORKING
Networking can often feel overwhelming, but tapping into your natural abilities can make it a more rewarding experience. It doesn't matter if you're more reserved or outgoing; everyone has something to offer, and we can all develop the skills for building lasting connections. And don't be shy about asking for introductions. It's one of the best ways to expand your network.
You can find your comfort zone when it comes to networking, regardless of how outgoing you are. Getting involved in school functions or becoming active in local volunteer opportunities can be a low-pressure way to get better at building relationships. Good networking abilities can be developed from any starting point by making the most of your personality.
Things to keep in mind:
- Use your natural abilities to improve your networking.
- Asking for introductions is a great way to meet new contacts.
- Everyone can become better at networking with practice.
- Volunteering is an excellent method to refine interpersonal skills.
- Your unique personality is an asset in making connections.
POSITIVE NETWORKING OUTCOMES FOR US INTROVERTS: REFRAMING SUCCESS
We introverts have our own unique set of abilities that allow us to excel at networking as well, so it is not just something for extroverts. Although I understand that introverts like me may feel awkward approaching strangers, the goal of networking should not be to meet a large number of people but rather to make a few high-quality connections.
The key is to make an effort to meet new people and form genuine, long-term relationships. Our ability to connect with people on a deeper, more intimate level as introverts gives us an edge when it comes to building relationships.
Have confidence when you're in a networking situation. Your idea of success should be about forming meaningful bonds, not about being the most noticeable person there. There's an equal place for us in the networking space. We just have to keep in mind that we have something substantial to offer, even if our first inclination is to keep it to ourselves.
Whether you are more of an extrovert or an introvert, there are benefits to both approaches when it comes to networking. It's not about conforming to a standard or having any expectations. It's all about knowing what works for you and approaching the opportunity in a way that lends itself to your strengths.
Prioritise building relationships and focusing on quality over quantity. Networking is one of the best skills you can have for reaching your professional goals. Know your worth and put in the work. It's an investment that will pay massive dividends in the long run.