Do you prefer watching Netflix in your pyjamas to trading business cards with a room full of strangers?
You’re not alone.
According to Susan Cain, a published author and leader in the ‘Quiet Revolution’, up to 50 percent of Americans consider themselves to be ‘introverts’. It’s reasonable to assume a similar representation in the Australian population.
“Depending on which study you consult, one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts — in other words, one out of every two or three people you know… If these statistics surprise you, that’s probably because so many people pretend to be extroverts…It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves,” said Ms Cain.
What is an Introvert?
Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, devised the theory of extravert/introvert to describe to basic personality types. According to Jung, an introvert is a person whose interest is generally directed inward toward his own feelings and thoughts, in contrast to an extravert, whose attention is directed toward other people and the outside world.
McCain believes introverts are not shy. Shyness is a fear of social judgement. Introversion is more about how you respond to stimulation, or how you generate your energy.
“Introverts feel most alive when they are in quieter, low-key environments,” said Ms Cain.
This is opposite to extraverts who feel rewarded and re-charged by social interaction and attention, the default environment for networking!
Yes, extroverts feel more comfortable networking than introverts, however this doesn’t mean introverts are ineffective networkers.
Can Introverts Be Successful?
History tell us yes! Introverts have been outspoken leaders, inventors, writers, scientists and more. Ghandi described himself as an introvert. Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the Apple computer, spent many hours at his desk quietly working and thinking. Dr Seuss avoided meeting the kids who read his books because he feared they would expect a crazy Santa Claus personality rather than his quiet bookish self.
Why Bother Networking?
It can be difficult for introverts to muster the energy and courage to network. But failing to do so can be detrimental to your career. After all, your next employer or client is not going to knock on your door while you’re watching TV! Networking can help you to grow a community of people who can connect you to career and business opportunities.
Play to Your Strengths
Being the charismatic life of the party is often seen as critical to be a successful networker. However, introverts tend to be more empathetic and better listeners because they’re not motivated by attention-seeking. These qualities help establish rapport and build solid foundations in new relationships.
Rajeev Behera, a self-described introvert from Silicon Valley, believes introverts often speak to fewer people but have longer, more detailed conversations. Those conversations easily go beyond the superficial and can lead to relationships that endure after the event.
Is There Another Way?
Yes. There is more than one way to do networking. To an extent, you can build your profile and social network online but at some stage, you will need to peer out from behind your computer and connect with people in person.
Here are my five networking suggestions for introverts:
1. Quality Networking
If handing out a bunch of business cards to a room-full of strangers doesn’t work for you, then start small. Look at your LinkedIn network. Is there someone who can assist you in your career who you would like to know better? Start by engaging with their social media posts to show you’re interested. Once you have established rapport, you can invite them to connect and then suggest catching up in person for coffee.
You can also ask friends or colleagues for introductions. Research the person you would like to meet and see if there is someone you know who can arrange a coffee or a lunch.
2. Attract People to You
Publishing interesting content online can be a good way to connect with like-minded people who share similar interests. If you don’t have a blog, you can start by publishing articles on LinkedIn. It is also easy to set up a blog site for free.
Another way to attract people to you is to host a small event. It could be a lunch or dinner where you ask a colleague or friend to bring a ‘plus one’. You can even theme the event to set the scene. For example, if you are seeking your next promotion, you could invite your guests to tell one story about how they successfully earned a promotion.
3. Team Up
If you work in the type of industry that does big conferences, then why not ask a colleague or friend to join you at the event? Having the support of someone you know and trust can make it easier to put yourself out there. And if you’re really cunning, team up with an extrovert and let them break the ice for you!
4. Go Behind the Scenes
If the opportunity presents itself, volunteer to help organise the event. For example, offer to hand out nametags at the registration desk. People will have a reason to talk to you and information on the name tag can provide you with talking points. You can also scan the guest list and see who’s coming and who you want to meet.
5. Set Realistic Goals
If two solid hours of small-talk leaves you exhausted, then set a more realistic target. Instead of going for the full event, aim to make one new contact, then leave early. If leaving early feels awkward, have a convenient excuse like you have to attend an event at your child’s school, or finish work with a pressing deadline.
If you are nervous about networking or would like to develop an effective networking plan then I invite you to book your free 45-minute coaching conversation to discover how coaching can help you become a more effective networker.
About Future U Coaching
Our story is all about transforming your career, so you achieve career happiness. We work with you to transform your career so that you achieve your career goals so that you will have a rewarding, satisfying and fulfilling career. If you are looking for a job promotion; or considering a new job; or, thinking about a complete career change; or you are about to be made redundant.
- The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain.