The Introvert’s Guide to Networking

August 18, 20143:18 pm372 views

Introverts dislike socialising in noisy environments, where you often have to scream to be heard. Introverts can find it overwhelming, rendering them not as effective as they could be when connecting. In fact, many people find networking generally stressful or distasteful.

But networking can be enjoyable for introverts when matched to their individual strengths and interests, rather than forcing themselves to attend what the business world presents as archetypal “networking events.”

Create Your Own Events.

If you’re game for any kind of networking, you don’t have to think too hard about which types of events to attend; as long as it’s the right crowd, you can make the connections you need.But if you prefer “minimally stimulating environments” – as most introverts do, conventional events (i.e, harbour cruises, bar nights and after parties) may be unsuitable.

Control your networking environment by creating your own events. Bringing together “interest groups” of colleagues, aggregating different segments of the community and consolidating them aligns people who share the same values, while generating credibility and status as the community manager. It also served to grow social capital, whether for an organisation or individual.

Understand When you Perform.

For introverts, networking requires more cognitive effort than either ambiverts or extroverts – its fun, but you have to psych yourself up to be “on”. This places an additional burden of performing despite fatigue. Stack the deck in your favour by refusing any meetings before 8 am or after 9 pm, since these are the times that performance tends to dip.

See: PunchOut! – HR Networking Event

Rate the Likelihood of Connecting.

Every networking event should be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis: :If you weren’t here, what would you be doing, instead?”

Analysing this is important for introverts, because even if the alternative isn’t something overtly productive (i.e. writing a new business proposal), the cost side of this equation can be steep, by exhausting themselves emotionally for hours or days afterward. Ask who’s likely to attend and whether they’re your target audience (however you define that — potential clients, interesting colleagues, etc.).

Conclude by asking the likelihood of connecting with them. Large, loud events hinder connectivity. An intimate dinner is one thing but a raucous roofdeck gathering is a very different affair.

Calibrate Your Schedule

Athletes understand they need time for muscle recovery, so they follow up intense training days with time off. Introverts should do the same. Batching activities allows greater focus, and alternating between social and quiet time enables introverts to be at their best when interacting with people.

Even if a networking opportunity appears interesting, decline if it’s on the heels of several busy days; Introverts won’t be able to tap its full potential because they’ll be emotionally exhausted. On the other hand, if the event timing works and you’ll be fresh and open to engaging with new people, with a nearby proximity, its worth attending.

Finding the type of gatherings that work for you improves your networking and makes it a more positive experience. There’s a reason so many events take place in noisy bars: some people love that. For those without that predilection, say no to torturing yourselves in the belief that it’ll ultimately be beneficial.

Reclaim networking and do it your own way, rather than following convention. Sometimes, the best way to network is a simple coffee or beer, or oftentimes a meal, as a way to get to know people and touch base.

 This is based on Networking for Introverts from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Questions? Contact Shiwen at shiwen@hrinasia.com
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