Do you often feel awkward and inefficient at networking functions? Trust me, I know the feeling.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the US: 1 month, 6 months or a year – my guess is that networking is a part of your job and life. And I’m sure most of us wonder how some people pull it off so seamlessly while we feel awkward and inefficient at networking functions. Trying to convince ourselves we don’t need to network doesn’t really work – we sure need it to make progress no matter what we do.
My first month in D.C. wasn’t an easy one – I dived right into social gatherings and events with people I don’t know. It seemed I was out every night, most of the time feeling just as I described above: awkward, under connected and overwhelmed. Being the youngest person in the room didn’t help either. I wish I had the book I’m holding in my hands today 9 months ago.
I was always wondering: is it possible for an introvert to be a good networker? What about those half-introverts/half-extraverts? Do they have different networking styles? How do people mingle with complete strangers? There you go, dusty networking rules revised just for you, introverts.
Dusty Old Rule #1: Jump On In.
Jumping on into situations and discussions is the only way to build contacts. You can talk, and everyone you meet is a new friend.
Sparkling New Rule #1: Pause!
Instead of talking non-stop (which a lot of people hate), observe. Listen and gather data. Introverts think to talk, not the other way around, and it is their strength.
Dusty Old Rule #2: Sell Yourself.
Be visible at all times, share accomplishments freely, always reach out to others. Promotion is a natural way to expand networks.
Sparkling New Rule #2: Process!
It’s ok if you consider many topics private. Ask questions, listen carefully and create deep connections with a few people rather than superficial ones with the whole room.
Dusty Old Rule #3: Maximize Time with Others (Party)
You thrive in an environment with plenty of people and action. Fill your day, your life, your time with people and events galore. Join the club.
Sparkling New Rule #2: Pace!
Introverts and Centroverts (those creatures in between) do best when engaged in authentic conversations, structured activity, and purposeful action. Less is more for introverts.
Counting the number of business cards you have or gave away is a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s misleading. Instead, count the number of new contacts you’ve actually done business with. An introvert adapting to networking rules for extroverts is similar to a left-handed person trying write with their right hand. Sure, you could learn, but why go against your natural style?
Rules are adopted from “Networking for People Who Hate Networking” by Devora Zack.