If the thought of marching up to someone in a crowded conference room and striking up a conversation about their professional experiences makes you flinch, you are not alone. As an introvert, the act of networking can be intimidating, if not downright frightening. Still, the skill is highly important to your own career development and mastering the art of networking may provide boundless benefits to future you. But have no fear, introverts; we have tips to help you conquer networking.
- Practice makes perfect- In high school, you may have spent an indecent amount of time practicing your perfect smile before picture day. Do that again. Practice saying your name and field of study in a confident voice. Practice your handshaking skills with your dog, your mom, your other hand, whoever and whatever. The point is, the more comfortable you feel executing the small things, the less you’ll worry about them when in an actual networking setting.
- Come prepared- Networking typically involves two-sided conversations– imagine that. When someone asks you questions about yourself, have answers prepared so you don’t have to deal with the fear of stumbling over your own words or forgetting where you go to school (it happens). Attend events ready to talk about who you are, what your goals are, and what interests you. Have questions to ask others in mind so you don’t have to resort to talking about the weather. Preparation is key.
- Set goals- Before attending a networking event, set a goal for yourself. Perhaps your goal is to talk with at least five people or set up a coffee date with someone in your field– make the goals as large or small as you feel comfortable setting. Not only will you feel less anxious if you have a particular goal in mind, but you will feel a sense of accomplishment for meeting– or exceeding– your goal.
- Find your own style- Perhaps you don’t feel comfortable standing on top of the snack table at a networking event and demanding attention from everyone in the room, and that’s okay. Perfectly normal, even. There is secretly no one right way to network, so developing your own style of networking is key. For example, if you’re an avid reader, ask people about what books they are currently reading to break the ice. Rather than focusing on the number of connections you are able to make at events, focus instead on the quality of conversations you have.
- Start small- Attend smaller networking events to ease into the networking scene. Not only will smaller venues be less intimidating, but the atmosphere at smaller events will likely make you feel more comfortable chatting with one of the friendly faces present. Check out networking opportunities available to you at the Concordia Career Center.
- Celebrate the little victories- Maybe you manage to shake hands with a finely dressed business person or make it through an entire hour of an event without hiding in the bathroom. These are all things to feel proud about. Introverts have the tendency to spend time fretting over social interactions that the average extrovert wouldn’t think twice about, but realize your own success. Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate accordingly. Party hats are encouraged.
As scary as networking may seem to your introverted self, mastering the art of networking is achievable. Follow these tips to ensure that you will feel comfortable and confident the next time a networking opportunity presents itself.
Written by Career Peer Andie