Data scientists, web developers, designers, engineers, and coders; these professions often attract people who prefer quiet time to think and work alone. These tendencies make the standard career advice, to “just get out there and talk to people,” sound like a major obstacle.
For those introverts that aren't a fan of mixers, Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, said introverts aren’t afraid to meet people, but they need solitary time to regroup. People confuse introversion with shyness.
“Shyness is about fear of social judgment,” Cain says in a 2012 TED talk. “Introversion is more about how you respond to stimulation.”
A controlled situation, such as a speech or a one-to-one meeting, is less stimulating than a room full of chattering people. The secret to successful networking for introverts, is not to force yourself into life-of-the-party mode, but rather to think strategically about who you need to meet, and play to your own social strengths. Good networkers understand that anybody in their circle, from a coworker to their seventh-grade soccer coach, can be a link to their next opportunity.
Here are some useful strategies for introverts who are looking to improve their networking skills.
Make a Plan
If you’re heading to an event, think about your goals. Do you want to connect with investors for your startup? Maybe you’re on the hunt for mentors in data science, or looking for information about a particular company. It’s better to have one meaningful conversation than to collect 15 business cards from random people.
Go with a Buddy
While it’s not a great strategy to cling to the person you came with for the whole event, most people find it easier not to walk alone into a room full of strangers.
Practice Your Intro
This seems forced and weird, but it will help you come across as confident, rather than robotic. Have a few questions prepared to start conversation flowing. One of my favorite closers: “Who else do you think I should meet?”
Set a Time Limit
Promise yourself you can leave in 20 minutes. That will not only calm you down enough to actually talk to someone, but it will also give you the motivation you need to make an impact in that time frame.
Choose the Right Events
If you freeze in big, noisy rooms, don’t go to big, noisy meetups. If you’re a night owl, how impressive can you be at 7 a.m. networking breakfasts? If you’re drained after a day of conference sessions, skip the cocktail hour and do whatever recharges you, whether that’s a solitary run or a nap before dinner.
Email Counts as Networking
With so many tools at your fingertips to identify the right companies and people, a savvy introvert can skip the big events altogether and concentrate on the social media and technology focused elements of networking.