A Networking Introvert [blog/reflection]

A Networking Introvert [blog/reflection]

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I found a Meetup.com group where different collaborating community groups and interests, such as spirituality, business, coaching, information technology, and so on come together to host a monthly networking event. It’s an event that I intended to attend in October but chickened out on. Why? Because I was uncomfortable with the idea of meeting with new people around business. How does an introvert go about doing that? What in the world am I supposed to say? What should I do? And don’t get me started on how I will feel.

With those questions in mind, it’s no wonder I chickened out. I’m an introvert. That’s not to say I’m shy or that I don’t like people. It’s just that I find it somewhat terrifying to walk up to a stranger and ask them about themselves or tell them about myself with some future mutually beneficial business relationship in mind. I like to connect one-to-one with people on deep stuff, not the weather or an elevator speech. And crowds of people for a length of time is tiring to me. I come home everyday from work like a zombie; I’m drained. The fact that I didnt go to the networking event in October bothered me. I want to be able to connect with more people professionally. I want to feel comfortable talking about my interests/business believing it will benefit me in some way even if the discussion is ever so brief.

The event came again in November. I didn’t go. Chickened out again. I saw a Youtube video on Networking for Introverts that mentioned an introvert only needs to think about connecting, not networking, and only with one person if needed. That seemed helpful. The idea of networking overwhelmed me in the past, but I should think about it on a smaller scale – make it easy and actionable for myself.

December came. I went! I talked myself into going. “Just do it, Brooke.” “If you don’t meet anyone, it’s just important to go.” “What have you got to lose?” “Take the step.” These are things I said to myself to encourage me to go. And I must say, I was ecstatic that I went. I was able to share my interests and chat with other people about theirs. I was able to connect with people and exchange business cards around interests and needs. I even managed to get some booklets from other guests and learn about their businesses and skills. It got me thinking that maybe I should invest in some booklets too as it can give other guests a rounded picture of myself and what I can offer. Of course, I’d have to find a booklet printing service first but it seems like a pretty good idea to me. Overall, the networking event was so exciting! I felt great. Why? Not because the event was good (it was), but because I accomplished my goal. I pushed through my fear and discomfort and did something that was important to me. I was also fully aware of my fears months before and during the event and took the risk anyway. I did it! I was beaming on my drive home. Ten minutes into my drive I was also tired. Go figure, I’m an introvert 🙂

Here are some things that might be helpful for you if you find yourself in a similar introverted-networking predicament:

1. Know your specific fears/discomfort around networking. Be able to specify exactly what makes you afraid or uncomfortable so you can challenge yourself in those areas.
2. View networking as connecting instead. Sometimes changing your language can change your mindset.
3. Be clear about what type of people you want to meet or relationship you are trying to gain. This can help you meet certain people as opposed to meeting a ton of people and tiring yourself out.
4. Seek out specific events where people of interest might be. General networking events might be cool (especially to get your feet wet and for generalized interests), but the more specific you can get, the better able you can hone in on what you are seeking.
5. Speak positively about the experience you will have. Affirmations can go a long way. So does positive thinking. Prayer goes a long way too.
6. Make going to the event as easy as possible in every way. For example, it probably would have been better transportation wise if I caught the subway to the event. I drove. I knew I needed to make things as simple as possible for me, otherwise I would bail again. Driving makes me more comfortable and taking 20minutes to find parking didn’t bother me as much.
7. Keep an open mind. You never know who you are going to meet. Someone new or a new you. Either way it’ll be worth it.

What are some of your tips for networking as an introvert? Any interesting experiences? Let us know below!