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Networking for Introverts

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Do you know how much of the population can be classified as introverted? The number is startling large: 25-49% of the population can be considered introverts. And, did you know that the more introverted you are, the higher your intelligence? Apparently, 75% of people with IQs above 160 are introverts, at least according to Lisa Petrilli, author of An Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership.

Usually, introverts will have no problem talking to one or two people (or even a 100), but the idea of “working the room” puts the fear of God into them. Making small talk to strangers is an introvert’s idea of hell, as it leaves them feeling totally drained and wanting to retreat. Introverts have been conditioned to believe that their personalities pose a problem, especially when it comes to business, but this doesn’t have to be the case. It merely requires different tactics to approach people. Here are some valuable tips to make networking less of a nightmare.

1. Accept your inner introvert

According to Petrilli, most introverts think that their ‘condition’ is a bad thing and that it hinders their way of doing business. A mind-set change is often all that is needed to improve networking skills and business opportunities. Being an introvert simply means that you get your energy from within and not from other people. It’s a preference and not a problem. Introverts need to realise that any group situations will drain them and that networking magic lies in one-on-one interactions. Also, a fear of reaching out should be addressed, as a friendly introduction will almost always be reciprocated, despite the introvert thinking otherwise! (Harvard Business Review).

2. Plan

An introvert shouldn’t expect to spontaneously sparkle at an event. It’s just not going to happen. Some pre-planning is needed to ensure a degree of relaxation and to take the pressure off. According to Nancy Ancowitz (author of Self-Promotion for Introverts), it helps to prepare a list of questions to ask people, such as how they got into their field and what their hobbies are. Talking about current events also helps. Introverts are usually exceptional listeners, so asking questions one-on-one is ideal.

Devora Zack (author of Networking for People who Hate Networking) suggests that introverts should always set goals before attending an event, such as making three contacts, then following up with them the next day. Pre-registration to events is also helpful, as it prevents cold feet (Brisbane Times). Pre-introductions via social media also take the edge off, as contacts will feel less like strangers (Petrilli).

3. Arrive early

According to Zack, if you get there late, everyone will already be in groups and it will be daunting to approach people. Also, things will likely be in full swing and it’ll be noisy, which will add stress and strain to communication attempts. Zack advises that introverts always arrive at least 15 minutes early, as this allows them to settle in (Brisbane Times). The mood will be more relaxed, as people will still be trickling in. It will be much easier to start individual chats and you can even take some time to identify people to talk to – like the other introvert standing in the corner, nervously clutching a drink.

Being an introvert doesn’t have to mean failing at networking. It just requires a more thoughtful approach. It’s important to accept the fact that you’re an inward-person, and don’t try to be something you’re not. Pre-planning, pre-introductions, and not arriving late also help. Don’t try to “work the room”; just be yourself, by asking questions, listening and forming a meaningful one-on-one connection.

This post was written by Ang Lloyd, a freelance writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. Ang relishes the challenge of writing on a diverse range of topics, including the importance of networking when looking for healthcare jobs overseas.

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