Networking at get-togethers and professional association meetings is typically the playground of extroverts. Extroverts love meeting new people, so going to such events is something to anticipate. It’s a different story for introverts though. It’s not that introverts don’t like meeting new people. It’s just that they would prefer to meet them one at a time instead of all at once as is common in a group setting.
If you fall into the introverted category, or if someone close to you does, here are some tips for not just surviving networking events, but thriving and making meaningful contacts that can help you in your career.
1) Have a plan. Since going to a networking event doesn’t come naturally for most introverts, think through carefully what your goals are for attending and what you will do when you arrive. For example, you might set a goal for yourself to connect with four people during the event. Your objective is to find people in your field who can refer you to other people in your profession who are thought leaders. Once you have identified your goals, you can then think of the best way to approach people to solicit their help. And of course in the spirit of networking, you need to be ready to help others as well.
2) Attend networking events with a friend. Asking someone else to attend an event with you can help you overcome your nervousness once you arrive. The two of you can support each other as you both try to advance your career goals. This can make it easier to mix and mingle
3) Be approachable. Smile and look pleasant. If you want to make the most of your networking experience, you need to practice appearing approachable. A smile and a pleasant look will attract people to you. If you look ill at ease, people will be less likely to strike up a conversation with you.
4) Come with a list of questions. Introverts typically prefer to listen than to talk. Use this to your advantage. By developing questions that will be conversation starters prior to going to a networking event, you will avoid the awkwardness of gaps in the conversation. If the event that you are attending is a professional association meeting, you might ask another attendee, “How long have you been a member of this association?” Or you could ask, “How long have you been in this field?” These types of questions open the door to you learning more about the person, and it takes the pressure off you as an introvert to feel as though you must do all the talking.
5) Get involved. Join a committee so that you get to know people naturally. This will also raise your visibility. Most professional associations are begging for people to become committee members. By volunteering for this role, you will meet movers and shakers in the organization. As you share ideas in meetings, you will be able to present yourself as a knowledgeable professional and start to build relationship with the other committee members This is a natural fit for introverts because introverts prefer to show rather than tell.