Networking is an important skill for almost every industry and career. While networking might seem to be more for business majors, it can be helpful to anyone. When you network, you're building a circle of friends, or acquaintances, who share the same interests or goals as you. This circle of peers can provide support, connect you with other like-minded people, refer you to internships or jobs and more. "Networking" and "introvert" are two words you probably wouldn't find together, since introverts tend to appreciate being alone and feel drained from extended social interaction, but since networking is beneficial for everyone, here are some tips to help you dive into the networking world.
1. Show up to networking events.
First of all, there's no better way to accomplish something than showing up. Look for networking events that college clubs or programs are holding and make the conscious decision to show up. There's no need to overthink social events because chances are that when you're there, you'll be able to read the room and go with the flow. So just relax, adjust your mindset about networking, simply show up and be yourself.
2. Practice makes perfect.
Your first networking experience might go better than expected or you might hit a few bumps in the road. Who knows? The important thing is to not let any of it discourage you from choosing to go to more networking events in the future. If you're attending your first event, aim to get one to two business cards from the people you meet there. Before each event, do some research on who will be there, choose who you want to meet and think of some topics to bring up. As you attend more and more social events, you'll feel more comfortable talking to people who share your interests and career goals. After all, practice makes perfect.
3. Use your introvert qualities to your advantage.
Introverts are known to be good listeners, super focused, goal-oriented and observant, which are all amazing qualities to have when networking. Don't think that being an introvert is a disadvantage in the game of networking. Instead, use your unique qualities to your benefit. By being a good listener, you're bound to remember people's names and any stories they share with you, so you can refer back to them when you contact them. By being super focused and goal-oriented, you can use that determination to put your best foot forward when searching for new people to meet. Use your observant eye to take note of the people there, identify your targets and then go introduce yourself.
4. Take some time to recharge.
Introverts and extroverts differ in that some extroverts feel energized from social interaction while introverts feel drained from it. This doesn't mean that introverts dislike socializing; it just means that we need to do it in moderation. After a long day of socializing, introverts just want to spend time alone, do their own thing and recharge themselves. This applies to networking as well. If you can't continuously network, it's perfectly fine (and healthy) to step aside and spend a few moments to collect your thoughts.
5. Focus on forming strong relationships.
An essential part of networking is getting to know people. So how do you get to know people? The answer is small talk. A common misconception about introverts is that we dislike talking to people, which is not true. Introverts enjoy connecting with people, but in a different way and on a deeper level. This is why introverts dislike small talk, because it seems like a shallow form of socializing. While networking seems like it mainly consists of small talk, don't let that stop you from really getting to know someone on a deeper level. For example, you can share a personal story with them. When networking, strive for quality over quantity. After all, having a few strong relationships is better than having ten surface level relationships. If you get to know someone beyond all the small talk, they'll be sure to remember you the next time you contact them.
6. Practice your introduction.
According to The Harvard Study of Communications, it only takes about seven seconds for you to make a first impression on someone. This study also discovered that 45% of what makes up your first impression has to do with the words you say. Therefore, it's important to practice confidently introducing yourself to the people you will meet. For example, the most important things to mention are your name (of course!), your major, any projects you're currently working on, your current job and perhaps a memorable fun fact about yourself. This is also known as an elevator pitch, which is basically a clear, concise message that effectively communicates you and your abilities. In a way, you are trying to "sell" your abilities to your target audience. Set aside some time to craft an elevator pitch that accurately describes you and your skills, so that you're prepared to use it when the time comes.
7. Remember to follow up.
The truth is that people could attend a networking event, meet about ten people, collect business cards and end up never contacting them again. The trick to effective networking is to follow up with each person that you've met after the event. For starters, you can find that person on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. You can even take out a small chunk of your day to email everyone you met, reminding them of how you two met, recall something you both discussed and encourage them to reach out to you anytime.
While networking may sound like a daunting task to most introverts, just remember to go at your own pace, recharge when necessary and keep on practicing. At the end of the day, we are all just people and you're probably not the only introvert in the room! You have the potential to make great connections.
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