Search through any advice column on how to be successful in your career and you will find it peppered with the dreaded word (for some) – networking. When all the insider tips suggest the best way to get ahead is through networking, this can be difficult to handle for people who are more naturally introverted.
Introverts typically thrive in situations with smaller groups of people, and do best having meaningful and deep conversations. They also find larger social situations to be emotionally draining and require alone time in order to recharge. As opposed to more extroverted people, who gain energy from people around them, introverts can certainly struggle to gain ground in the face-paced and at times impersonal networking world.
It is possible for introverted people to successfully navigate the intimidating task of networking, whether attending a large conference with hundreds of anonymous colleagues, or meeting up for a networking cocktail hour at the local bar. Here at Abbey Research, we devised a few short tips to help any person who may feel overwhelmed at the idea of approaching strangers in order to advance their research, business, or seek out job prospects:
- Make a plan: Whether or not you consider yourself an introvert, networking with a room full of unknown personalities can be a challenge. Rather than spending the evening in the corner of the room, too uncomfortable to engage with people, make a plan prior to arriving. Set yourself a goal of having a certain (small) number of longer conversations. Being successful at a networking event is not about the number of people you meet but the quality of the connections. Seek out the organizer and start by introducing yourself to them – then go from there.
- Start small: Depending on the size of the event, we suggest doing some research on potential people you might want to speak with. If it’s a conference, research some of the presenters or panelists, look up their photograph and biographical details. The more prepared you are to start a conversation, the higher the chances of a successful encounter. Start out by attending smaller events, maybe within your own alumni network, so you already have something in common with the attendees.
- Social media is your friend: In the world of mass communication and increased globalization, more and more people are beginning their networking through social media applications. We have already written about the utility of social media for early career researchers, and many initial contacts with people who have similar interests can be done strategically through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Networking is an integral part of being successful in the workforce, and there are certainly some who make it appear easier than others. Even if you may struggle with certain elements of networking, it is important to remember how you best communicate with people, and seek out opportunities that utilize those skills. Tailor your networking approach to your strengths and do not be afraid to take a few risks along the way!