Socializing with new people for extended periods of time can often be draining to introverts. They are most energized by working on their own, or in small groups, with people they know and are comfortable with. It’s not to say that introverts are not successful in a business setting where there is a lot of team activity and collaboration. Introverts can be extremely social, entertaining, even the life of a get-together, but they need some downtime to recharge.
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Networking is not necessarily their forte, but it is a necessary part of a professional career. If you are an introvert and find it difficult to make connections, here are a few tips that can help you:
1. Prioritize events that you have to go to: There are a zillion networking events happening all year long. Some events help your professional growth, some are a formality, some just get in the way. Prioritize what makes sense to you and avoid gatherings that are a time-drain. Obviously the meeting that your boss organizes falls in the list of the ones you cannot miss.
2. Plan ahead: If you are aware of the attendees to a party, do some research on people you find interesting, for example, someone who is working in your area of expertise or at the company of your dreams. You may be able to find common topics of interest if you plan ahead. Read up about their works or the company to help you in your discussion.
3. Don’t invest too much in large networking events: It is often impossible to form meaningful long-term connections in large networking events. Instead try and focus on establishing touch points and following up with one-on-on meetings. Rebekah Campbell at The New York Times suggests having short conversations with lots of people, getting their contact details and following up later.
4. Join networking associations that make sense to you: If you do join professional networking associations, make it a point to be as regular as possible, at least in the beginning. Observe people and listen to what they have to say until you get accustomed to speaking with everyone and they are able to recognize you. After this, you may be able to be much more comfortable interacting with familiar faces.
5. Plan for refueling: If you are scheduled for all-day meetings or get-togethers, chalk out sometime for yourself — to recharge. These could mean bathroom breaks that run just a bit longer or lunch breaks on your own. Make sure you have the time to get your energy back.
6. Play on your strengths: If you are great at data analysis, presentations or case studies use these to your advantage. You will be recognized as the go-to person for your areas of expertise.
7. Listen: This is often an underrated conversational skill. While more people are keen on getting their point across, you can use your listening skills to strike up a conversation: “I really liked what you said about the oil crisis at the energy summit…” That way, the person will feel heard and comfortable connecting with you, because you are already familiar with her works.
8. Focus on quality, not quantity: It’s not how many people you know, it’s how well you know them. Focus on building relationships versus short term connections. A few meaningful connections can help you establish a stronger network in the long run.
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