Imagine yourself in a large conference hall at a generic chain hotel packed with hundreds of mid-career professionals wearing nametags. Herds of anxious-looking people mill about snack tables loaded with cheap crackers and cheese. Others are circulating through a maze of card tables where men and women inbusiness casual attire have set out pamphlets and corporate-branded pens.
Your job, over the course of the next two hours, is to make a positive and lasting impression on as many of these people as possible. And maybe even find yourself a new job. Nauseated yet?
Networking is the art and science of building professional relationships, but few of us are naturals at it. There are many excellent reasons to network: to expand your client base, develop business partnerships, find a better job or find some better workers. The more people you meet, the larger your network and the greater the odds of finding the best customers, partners, employers or employees. At least that’s the theory.
But for some of us, namely the many adults who identify themselves as introverts, networking events can feel like the first day of school all over again. “Just smile and introduce yourself!” your mom used to say. Yeah, right. Introverts shine in thoughtful, one-on-one conversations, not selling themselves to complete strangers with a snappy “elevator pitch.” So how do you develop a strong and effective professional network if you hate networking?
We’ll help you out with 10 practical and helpful tips for the networking-averse.
- Enhance your business card – Try using an eye-catching color or shape for your business card to help it stand out.
- Volunteer – Working the registration area or at a booth can be a good way to meet people without too much effort.
- Arrive early – Arriving early can give you a chance to network with other professionals in a less-competitive environment.
- Choose a magic number – If you hate talking to strangers, make a game of it by giving yourself a number of people you must speak with in order to get a reward.
- Organize the event yourself – You could organize your own networking event, complete with guest speaker.
- Be interested, not interesting – Most people love to talk about themselves, so being a good listener is an asset in networking. And it’s something introverts excel at
- Follow up – You should follow up within 48 hours of meeting a contact you wish to keep in touch with, either by phone, e-mail or text.
- Use Social Media to Get Face Time – LinkedIn can connect you with people in your field that you don’t know. Once the contact is made, ask to meet with them for coffee or a drink.
- Get an adult internship – An adult internship is a great way to test-drive a career before committing. You can propose one to a contact that you hit it off with when networking.
- Go viral – Social Media (like Facebook and Twitter) can aid in your job search or business growth by letting you message people you don’t talk with every day.