When I say networking, what comes to your mind? Polite, firm handshakes, the traditional business card exchange, and being impeccably well dressed, perhaps! For the average introvert, this quaint vision can easily turn into your biggest nightmare. I completely relate. Networking as an introvert might feel more like walking across a minefield blindfolded. After all, extroverts are the loud, charismatic ones. In Singapore, not everyone’s sympathetic or understanding of life on the other side of the fence.
But the fact still stands: to build a career that thrives and is full of fresh opportunities, you need to get out there and meet new people AKA network! Before you start chewing at your fingernails, though, rest assured and read on for tips on networking as an introvert.
The implications of being highly introverted
Navigating the world as an introvert can be a struggle at times. I know this because I’m one too – and even business leaders aren’t spared of this fate. We face a multitude of issues, ranging from getting anxiety when conversing face to face and experiencing rapid social energy drain in social situations. Some introverts are absolutely horrible with phone calls, too.
What does this all mean? Increased difficulty in getting through highly social situations, for one. Communicating with extroverts and other people will be nothing short of a challenge, depending on how introverted you naturally are.
Anxiety and worry are a part of daily life, too – there are even groups of introverts in Singapore huddling together online for regular meetups and support.
Champa, a marketing coordinator at Bold Ink Media, mentioned that introverts often downplay their best qualities and skills and are generally helpless when it comes to making good impressions. “When you’re called to events like these, you can’t afford to pretend that you haven’t done this before. When you’re an introvert – and a nervous one – you’ll be more likely to [downplay yourself].”
With a fast-draining social battery, you might not feel as equipped to tackle lengthy networking sessions and events as part of your career. You might ask the question, “Am I fit for networking?” or even “Am I fit for this career?”
The answer is yes! There’s always a way – even if you’re the quietest mouse in the meeting room.
So how can anyone start networking as an introvert – and pull it off?
When there’s a will, there’s a way. Here are four hugely helpful strategies to get you through the process of surviving a networking event – and making it worth your time and energy.
1. Networking as an introvert with the power of friendship and a solid buddy system
Nobody ever said you had to attend networking events and sessions on your own. Consider bringing a buddy if you think you can’t handle it. But don’t just bring any friend – you need someone who can support you in areas of need. Like, for example, starting a conversation.
So suit up and bring a friend (or two) along with you! Identify your weaknesses or biggest fears and recruit someone who can help in those areas as you’re networking as an introvert. Ideally, the introvert’s most suitable networking partner will be:
- Outspoken and friendly
- Unafraid of approaching total strangers and making introductions
- Someone who understands your introverted nature and sympathises with you
- Actively networking themselves (so they have the required experience to help you)
2. Recognising the advantages of being introverted
Introverts aren’t weak, flimsy excuses for people. We’ve got our strengths too! And there’s no doubt that introverts aren’t “lesser” candidates simply because we don’t navigate social situations the same way charming extroverts do. Here are a list of strengths and qualities that’ll help you as you’re networking as an introvert – sometimes even better than the outspoken ones:
- Introverts are highly thoughtful people. You might not be at the center of attention like a typical extrovert, but your thoughtfulness will be just as effective when seeking to make good impressions. Because we spend most of our time in deep thought, we’re able to make better social decisions (when we finally do it). At a networking event, you’ll more than likely make good connections when you show this side of yourself as you field questions (and asking good ones, too).
- We’re often highly prepared as well. Because it’s in our nature to prepare ourselves for any situation, networking as an introvert might be a breeze because you’re unlikely to forget anything. From research to preparing your business cards and CVs, you’ve got it all covered way in advance.
- We’re really good listeners. Introverts aren’t outspoken, but they spend most of their time observing and listening. Some people really appreciate that in a person, and you might make a good impression on people at networking events if you give them genuine attention and consideration. Less interruptions during conversations are a major plus point!
- Introverts are pretty humble. Humility will win hearts, no matter where you are. Prospective business partners or employers might appreciate this little quality in you, so take pride! A good attitude goes a long way, especially when you’re networking and trying to make good connections.
3. Tailoring your approach during networking events
As an introvert, crowded rooms bring out the sweat – both literally and figuratively. That’s why it’s best to create opportunities in environments that allow you to flourish. If you have to speak with someone in a quieter, more intimate corner of the room, do it. Play to your strengths and pay attention to your needs.
Instead of approaching large clusters of people who are in conversation (because you’re too polite to interrupt and you don’t ever want to be at the center of attention), identify people who seem to be lingering in small groups or even on their own. Eliminate possible sources of stress for yourself so you can expend the rest of your mental energy on networking effectively in the room.
4. Taking to the internet with online networking
Look, you don’t have to network physically if it’s a huge source of anxiety for you. Really. Online networking is a huge thing as well, especially on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Since introverts are known to be natural writers, it might be a good option to flex your social skills in cyberspace. Networking online doesn’t mean you can’t forge genuine connections all the same. Don’t knock it till you try it.
Check out Forbes’ tips for those of you considering online networking as an alternative to literally putting yourself out there.
Now that you’ve got your strategies sorted for nailing that next networking event, take a deep breath. Everything is going to be fine.
If you’re looking for a new career opportunity, hop on our platform and start exploring today. We look forward to seeing you around!