How to enjoy networking as an introvert
So you’ve told yourself you’ll go to networking events, because that’s what you’re supposed to do to meet people and get ahead, right?
Only the very thought of them makes you want to shudder. Because they feel so disingenuous. And the last thing your introverted self wants to do is drag herself out of her warm cozy home and into the lions den (or what others may call…networking).
Why is it so hard to go? For a long time my go-to excuse was because I am introverted. So of course I don’t like networking events – there’s way too much commotion, socializing and energy-draining conversations. I like to get to know people one-on one in a more intimate environment – which networking doesn’t lend itself too very well. Or, I am not a fan of the “surface level” conversations – you know, that small talk that just feels forced as each person tries to see what they could get out of the other. It all just left a bad taste in my mouth.
So then how did I go from dreading networking, to finding a way to enjoy them? I realized that the true source of the discomfort was not the networking event – it was my interpretation of what networking meant, of how I thought I was supposed to show up, and what I thought I was supposed to “get” out of going.
So here’s the truth about networking.
For all you fellow introverts out there who feel you want to go to the event as a step forward in your career, but have struggled to get yourself there – or for those of you who when you do go, feel like you have to put on a show to be able to survive it:
Networking is nothing more than relationship building.
And I don’t mean in the “what’s in it for me?” type of mentality that some may think it is. No. I mean a place to go where you can meet people whom you otherwise may never have crossed paths with, and learn about who they are, what they do.
Here is what this means for us as introverts.
Networking is a place where your introversion is a strength.
Being an introvert is not the detriment it may first seem to be. Because as an introvert, you may be quieter, but that also lends itself to allowing you to ask more questions, and hear more about the person you are talking to. And there is no better way to get to know someone then to ask them questions about their life.
Drop any expectation of needing to get something out of it beyond just getting to know people.
Instead just make networking be about meeting people, learning what they do, and even seeing if there is any way you could help them. This takes all the pressure is off.
Just make being there a success.
This allows you to no longer have to feel like you are searching or trying to find that perfect person to talk to at the event for it to be a success. Or that you have to dazzle the crowd for it to have been worth going. Nope. All you need to do is show up. This will take off more of that pressure and the rules for how you think you “should” show up – and instead allow you to just be. From that place, you’ll be better able to be real in your conversations – so you can have those deeper connections you enjoy having.
Don’t let feeling anxious mean you are doing it wrong.
Instead of trying to fight the anxiety that may come with you for social events, just allow it to be. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. Just accept that for now, anxiety tends to be there when you go to these events. Accept that is the reality for you at this time, and move on instead of focusing on it. As soon as you can expect anxiety will come and not let that mean anything about you, the sooner you can accept it and realize that you can handle feeling anxious. Thus, the sooner you can allow it to pass through you without giving it any extra thought, energy, or focus.
So there you have it.
This is how my fellow introverted self has embraced networking. Sure, it’s still not my favorite thing to do. But I no longer dread it like I used to. And I no longer let my anxiety rule me when I am there. Instead, I can show up as me. And have the real conversations – and connections – that I love having. Even in the crowd.