For those who are more introverted, networking can sound like torture. By slightly shifting your thinking and following these 9 tips, you’ll find gathering with colleagues may not be as painful as you think.
Remind yourself that “networking” is really just a buzzword that’s often associated with smarmy types of schmoozing. In reality though, you’re building a group made up of sincere, helpful people who want to develop relationships based on generosity and mutual interest. Might there be a few salespeople or phony baloney-types? Of course. Yet, the majority of the people you meet are eager to establish a mutually beneficial connection.
Networking might be scary at first. Remind yourself that good networks are built on solid relationships. And you can’t build your career, business, or community without them.
9 tips to keep in mind
You be you
You do not have to pretend to be an extrovert. If you’re shy and quiet, that’s OK. It’s fine to be awkward. Just don’t try to be someone you’re not.
You don’t have to walk around with a giant, fake grin, but at least try not to frown or scowl. People naturally respond better to someone who says good morning with a smile than to a grump who grunts a hello. A mean mug just isn’t inviting.
Be a good listener
As Dale Carnegie observed, everyone loves to talk about themselves. Perfect for an introvert! Listening is probably easier than talking, so become an active listener. Be interested. Ask questions. If you allow people to gab about themselves—while listening with sincere interest—they will remember that they had a wonderful conversation with you, without your needing to say much at all.
Focus on others
Consider how you might be able to help the person you’re chatting with. Think of the people who are already in your network or community. Is this new connection looking for IT help or marketing services? Maybe you have a company or person to recommend. It’s a win-win—build your network and strengthen your community at the same time.
Share your hobbies
You have a life outside of work and so does everyone else. If you do something interesting outside of work, talk about it! It will make you easy to remember as the pharmacist who skydives or the CEO who knits.
No “I’m sorry’s”
Introverts and new networkers tend to apologize when asking for help, seeing networking as an imposition rather an an exercise in relationship building. Don’t. The expectation with positive networking is that one day you might be in a position to return the favor you’re asking for now.
Grab a buddy
You might find one person at a conference who you’re comfortable with. Instead of only spending time together, ask your new friend if they know anyone else there. Admit you’re shy or new to networking and turn that buddy into a wingman.
You’re going to meet rude people, snooty people, or people you just don’t agree with. That’s life. You don’t marry everyone you meet, for heaven’s sake. Meeting people and not hitting it off is completely normal. Don’t take it personally and don’t dwell on it.
You might think you have nothing to offer. But you do. Sincere interest in the other person is a form a generosity. Be authentic. Share who you are. Help other people feel good about themselves or be more successful.
That’s all you have to do to network. By remembering it’s not all about you, you’ll thrive.
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