When I was a little girl, I was so shy I couldn’t even ask for the flavor ice cream I wanted. In High School, my armpits would sweat like crazy if the teacher called on me. And then one day, I decided to take control. I wasn’t the smartest, but I was smart. I wasn’t the most popular, but people liked me. I decided to stretch beyond my crazy unwarranted fears. I didn't know anything about networking strategies for introverts, but I knew I had to learn to speak up and get more comfortable interacting with people.
My first bold move was asking a friend if she wanted to go out for the roving reporter roles for our high school newspaper. Our job was to roam the halls which was so cool but..gulp..we had to talk to lots of people. It turned out to be a blast. That’s when I learned you can absolutely do anything you decide you want to do.
To make the most of your career and your life, you need people so it's important to find ways to be comfortable engaging with them. Networking for introverts is a topic very close to my heart as I am still one today. To inspire you, here are six strategies that have proven to be very effective for me…
Lean on your friends.
That’s what friends are for. Just like I did in High School, ask your friends for support. Your greatest network is always those closest to you. I call this “Rallying Your Relationships.” Tell them your dreams and goals. Ask them to introduce you to people they know who can help you grow. Ask them to go to events with you where you could meet more like-minded people who do what you want to do. Life is easier and so much more fun with friends.
Learn to love Linkedin.
Networking for Introverts is also so much easier with technology. You can now meet interesting people in the comfort of your pj's on your couch. Linkedin is all about stress-free and highly targeted networking. Sign up for the premium service as it allows you to email anyone you want. It’s so easy. Simply type in the company of your dreams or the job title you want and hundreds of opportunities and people appear. You can email them and ask them to connect, ask them about their experience and build a pen pal like relationship. And, when you work up to it—you can ask them to meet in person.
Prepare and practice.
This is especially important for in person communication with people we don't know. Many refer to this as having an elevator speech. Just a one-minute summary of who you are, what you are great at, your achievements and your current goals. Write it down. Ensure you are happy with every word you choose. Say it like a hundred times. And then say it a few more. Now you are ready to meet people face to face.
Another options is to walk into a room with questions prepared to ask others. This takes some pressure off and shows you are curious and eager to listen and learn.
Set social goals.
To minimize your fear, maximize networking within your comfort zone. Go to classes or events in your field of expertise. These are your people and like a home-court advantage so be ambitious. Set a goal for how many new people you want to meet. Walk up to them with your hand outreached. It’s quite likely they are as nervous as you are, so make the first move. The more prepared you are, the more confident and fun you will have. Promise.
You could also create your own small intimate get together and invite people you want to get to know better. This way you are in complete control.
Be like Beyonce.
That’s right. Be fierce and fearless. Beyonce admits she faked it until she made it. So if it worked for her….be like a performer on stage. Use positive affirmations. I still do a rather embarrassing ritual before a big meeting, event or presentation. I go into a bathroom stall, breathe deep and then strike a victory pose. I can hear the crowd roar as I imagine myself walking into the room. I choose leather pants and high heeled silver boots in this fantasy but wardrobe is up to you. Establish your own preparation ritual. But by all means, do it like a pop star.
Expand Your Comfort Zone.
We all know we have to take risks and do those things on which we procrastinate. Networking for introverts is going to look a bit different for each of us depending on where we are on the shyness scale. Whatever scares you – that’s likely what you need to do next. Make that new business pitch call. Go for that job. Ask for that promotion. Make that networking lunch date with someone doing exactly what you want to do. Yes! It will be scary, but the rewards are higher the higher we push ourselves.
The Bottom Line
Trust me, you are not alone shy introverts who know you need to network more. You have the power to choose to make changes focusing on your comfort zone and stretching a bit beyond it. You are awesome as you are, but you can aim higher. Yes, your armpits may sweat, but I promise the benefits are worth it.
Oprah always asks “what do you know for sure?” I am quite sure we are here to be our best selves and to find others to be a part of our grand adventure.
Have fun networking my introvert friends.
Check out this post if you are interested in more tips for lowering your anxiety while maximizing networking events.