How to Network When You’re Not an Extrovert
(And why you should.)
People are always saying how networking is important and they are right. We are a social culture, but with so much competition and media to sift through, you need your reputation and your network to help you shine. Often times it really is who you know – when you’re looking for a new job, looking for business, or even looking for a contractor. Jared Goodman, #thirstyunderthirty, just said, “your network is your net worth” on Facebook Live. So how do you know who you don’t know?
You have to get out there and do it. I tend to be outgoing and love to be around people. But even as someone who does identify as mostly extroverted, I can also find approaching a large room full of people intimidating.
I first started intentionally networking when I moved back to Moncton after living in Saint John for 6 years. I worked as an inside sales and estimating person for a structured cabling company. People I hung out in school with had moved on. My boss invited me to go to a CyberSocial networking event. He introduced me to several people and that got the ball rolling. I made a point to continue to attend even when he wasn’t there. As a female in a male-dominated tech space, I found a lot of people shy. I felt I had to approach people if I wanted to meet people. They were always receptive to talk to a smiling face.
For your first time at a networking event, find someone to go with. While you’re trying to find someone, you’re also networking. Ask everyone you already know if they attend any events. Find out what their interests are and you might learn more about the person you already thought you knew. Networking is a process – it takes time.
Attending similar events such as the Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours on a regular basis is a great way to make them less intimidating. Go often and you will start to see the same people. Use an icebreaker such as, “didn’t I see you here last month?” Repeat their name a few times aloud and in your head to commit it to memory. When you introduce yourself, use an elevator pitch that makes you stand out. Think of what makes you different or unique in your industry or personally.
As an introvert, my friend Heather McDonald (she helped me to start blogging!) told me, arrive early and find your place at the bar. If there is no bar, hang out by the food. People always like to have something in their hand and will often break the ice for you if you’re already there.
Always be networking. No matter where you are and who you meet, be personable and kind. Show a genuine interest in the person you’re talking to by asking questions and truly listening. It’s been said that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. If you can offer something to help that person, do it. Introduce people to one another. If you make a difference in that person’s life, you will be remembered.
Get a business card. If they don’t have one, write their coordinates on your own. Then follow-up and stay in touch. Send off an email within 3 days to reinforce your connection. Use holidays and birthdays to send a card. Send clips from the paper that they were mentioned in or might be interested in. You never know how that person could make a difference in your life down the road.
I have been building my network for years and you should too because it pays off. I’ve been invited to talk to a business class about my journey into entrepreneurship and I’m looking forward to it! I have 1000+ connections on LinkedIn, 500+ friends on Facebook and over 2600 followers on Twitter. Opportunities are everywhere. Volunteer. Join organizations and associations. Get out and meet people.