When introverts hear the word networking, a slew of reactions can present themselves. A look of terror or disgust might cloud faces, or the introverts might wave off the suggestion as an absurdity, like putting a cat on a leash.
It’s just not done.
Or is it? (Please don’t put your cat on a leash.)
Networking benefits everyone, even those who don’t get their energy from others. But let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: Being introverted or extroverted doesn’t denote a level of shyness. Instead, it defines the source of your energy. An introvert gets his or her energy by being alone; other people suck the energy out of introverts, so they need alone time to recharge. On the flip side, extroverts get their energy by being around other people; it’s when they are alone that their energy starts to drain.
So if you get your energy by being by yourself, how can you navigate the waters of networking, which inherently forces you to be around others? Where there is a will, there is a way.
REARRANGE YOUR SCHEDULE
If introverts need a good bit of alone time, then a networking event can be quite costly in terms of the energy required and subsequently drained from an introvert’s tank. But that isn’t a reason to sit out on the possibilities that networking can bring! Instead, arrange your schedule as best you can so that you “save up” energy to burn. Clear your schedule for the day so that you have plenty of alone time to charge. Perhaps this means taking a quiet lunch with a good book or knocking out tasks that are one-person projects, such as writing or going over spreadsheets. Just give yourself extra you time so that the networking event doesn’t burn more oil than you have to give.
Most introverts don’t jibe with loud, raucous events. Loud music where you have to be heard can honestly feel like more work than it’s worth, and if you’re shouting and only picking up a handful of the conversation, the cost-benefit of the networking event isn’t worth it. Choose your networking events carefully. A happy hour at a jam-packed bar might not sound like a swell time, but perhaps a lunch meet-up is more your speed. Cater to your strengths rather than adhering to extroverted norms.
PRACTICE YOUR LISTENING SKILLS
Once you get to a networking event and begin striking up conversations, it’s normal to still feel out of your element. The best way to resolve this feeling is to begin asking lots of questions about the other person. Everyone likes talking about themselves (introverts and extroverts alike), so feed them questions and really listen to what they have to say. This will help put you both at ease and will help keep the convo from sliding off the rails into silent territory.
Burchard & Associates is an executive search firm specialized in accounting and finance recruiting across all business sectors, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale/distribution, healthcare, financial services, and more.