Networking for Introverts

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Business networks are critical for both entrepreneurs and career-minded professional–the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 70% of people find their jobs through their connections. To some people, networking comes naturally. We all know those who have a broad range of business associates, peers, current and former co-workers, and like-minded people. 

Highly extroverted people seem to have an advantage in this area, meeting people and striking up and carrying on conversations with ease. But one-third of the population is described as introverts. In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain addresses certain advantages introverts have in the business world.

She suggests 3 ways that introverts can build networks just as well, if not better, than the most extroverted individual:

Think differently about the first meeting: When most people think about networking, lunchtime mixers or after-work meet-and-greets are what come to mind. However, there are a lot of alternative ways to expand your network. Establishing your expertise by posting frequently on LinkedIn or another online forum will let people get to know you before ever meeting in person. Another good way to meet other professionals is attending a more focused lecture and discussion. With a topic already selected and a lecture to discuss, your conversations can be more business-focused, letting you prepare for discussions ahead of time.

Keep your network manageable: If you see colleagues with networks numbering in the hundreds, don't worry that your network is too small. Some social scientists will tell you that the maximum sustainable network is actually around 150 people. Focus on making sure that the people in your network are actually people who know you well, not just casual contacts. Nurturing a smaller network and paying more attention to each person will serve you much better.  

Listen first, talk second: In a world where over two-thirds of people identify as extroverts, don't get too concerned about “breaking the ice.” Many of the people you meet at business functions will be glad to introduce themselves. Being a great listener and asking probing questions will set you apart during a mixer. 

If you've been avoiding networking meetings and building out your professional contacts, you should refocus your efforts. Introverts actually have an advantage in many areas. Many professionals describe introverts as “more thoughtful” and “selective.” What’s more, the smaller, more focused networks built by introverts who follow these tips are likely to be more useful than immense networks filled with loose connections. 

Choose a function to attend, do a little preparation, and know that making even one good contact is better than not networking at all. 


photo credit: nerovivo via photopin cc

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