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Networking for Introverts

We all hear stories about how beneficial networking can be for your career. But what if you aren't a social butterfly? If the thought of approaching strangers and giving your personal 'pitch' makes you break into a nervous sweat, then keep reading.

Introverts cop a bad rap. We all know that one person that stands quietly in the corner sipping their drink, trying not to look like a total stalker.

But what most non-introverts don't know is that we are actually pretty talkative, once we get to know you, but taking that first step is the hardest.

There are stacks of books and articles on this topic, but we've boiled it down to the top 5 things you need to know.

1. Invest time to become friends

Your inner introvert may think of 'networking' as a painful, awkward experience. It may even conjure up images akin to speed dating for professionals. You know what we're talking about- a room full of people talking to one another just long enough to decide if they can use each other to progress up the corporate ladder. Ick.

Approach networking as you would making new friends. Changing your mindset makes the process a lot more bearable, and reinforces that you need to invest time in the relationship. Focus on the long game rather than the easy win. These relationships won't help you overnight, but they may do so five years down the track. If you can't imagine sitting down and having a chat with this person over lunch, chances are they aren't the kind of person that you will want to reach out to for a favour. Go with your gut.

2. Pick your time of day

If you aren't a morning person, don't go to a networking breakfast. You are going to be miserable and wishing that you had spent the extra time in bed, rather than shelling out for an overpriced cooked breakfast.

If you shine after 5pm, tag along to an after work drinks and head home before you get too exhausted. Chances are you know what your body is like, so play to your strengths. You are going to need your energy to survive this encounter, so plan it at the time that's right for you.

3. Ask a question

Starting a conversation is always tricky. Ask questions - this is the easiest method for an introvert to start a conversation and get the ball rolling. Chances are that once they start, they won't want to stop. Which is great news you!

Ask them about their work. What projects have they been working on? What are they excited about?  Try to learn something from your conversation. This will help build a relationship while also expanding your knowledge base.

4. Try to help someone with a problem

Introverts are often great listeners. So when listening to people talk about their work, they might mention a problem or challenge they are facing. Take this opportunity to offer advice or talk through the problem with them. By demonstrating your willingness to assist, they are more likely to want to keep in contact and potentially workshop ideas with you in the future.

5. Master the close

Now, we don't mean closing the deal or getting the sale, we mean closing the conversation.

No one wants to be in that situation where you are awkwardly standing there, staring into space with nothing to talk about because you don't know how to say goodbye to your newfound friend. 

This is how you do it.

Simply say "It's been great talking to you. I have learnt a lot. Let's keep in touch." Exchange your contact details and walk away.

It's that easy (or terrifying) as that.

Now have a plan. Stick to it and you will feel more confident in yourself and your networking abilities.

If you think that you might need some more qualifications to combine with your new-found networking skills, check out what courses are on offer at the University of Canberra.