Emily Blatchford Associate Lifestyle Editor, HuffPost Australia & I sat down to answer her questions on Networking for Introverts. This article orginally appeared on HuffPost.
How To Network: A Guide For Introverts
For those who can’t imagine anything worse
Even for the most confident workers, networking can be a daunting prospect. And if you’re an introvert, it can be downright terrifying.
But unfortunately, in many fields, networking is a necessary evil. You’re not going to make new contacts or meet new people from the safety of your cubicle.
So how can you survive the intimidating prospect of walking into a room of people you don’t know (without burying your face in your phone the whole time) and network successfully?
HuffPost Australia spoke to Janine Garner, CEO, networking specialist and author of ‘It’s Who You Know’ to find out
HP: What do you think it is about networking that people hate so much?
JG: “We hate networking because we have made it so hard — we are overwhelmed with the choices available to network, it’s becoming complicated with how, what and where, we are all stretched for time and given the superficial nature of most networking (insert business card swapping fest) we are over it and questioning the real purpose behind it.”
What makes someone successful at networking?
JG: “Those that are successful at networking quite simply care. They care about the other person first and foremost, their success and what help they need.
“They engage deeply in conversation, are always curious about how they can help and make a point of following up and following through on any promises they make.
“Successful networkers understand that building relationships requires an investment of time, energy and interest and that it is a long game.”
What are the most common struggles people have with networking?
JG: “The most common struggles people have revolve all around themselves and being in their own head — ‘I’m an introvert, I’m nervous, what do I say, how do I make sure I am interesting, what if I need to leave the conversation?’
“The obsession with self gets in the way. I suggest people have to get out of their own way and instead focus intently on the person they are speaking to, listen deeply to understand and concentrate on being present.
“And if you err on the introversion side follow your energy — the worse thing you can do as an introvert is go to an event with thousands of people — instead organise a lunch of six people or a coffee date — that’s networking. And if you have to go to that big event plan your exit time and be okay with having a deep conversation with one or two people.
What is the first thing you should do when you enter a networking event?
JG: “For me its about preparation — why are the attending the event, who else is going, who would you like to meet? When you enter the event start connecting straight away — say hi to the person at the check-in, take a deep breath and say hi to the first person you meet — quite simply start the conversation.
“And if you are worrying about what to say, ask them questions first to get them talking so you can ultimately find some common ground. Some great opening questions could be ‘What brought you here today?’ ‘What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now in your business?’ ‘That sounds interesting tell me more’.”
Any tips on how to introduce yourself/infiltrate a group of people who are already talking?
JG: “Take a big deep breath, approach and simply say ‘Hi my name is xxx, I’m here on my own today is it okay to join in your conversation.’
What are the biggest networking no-nos?
JG: “We all hate those rubber-neckers — you know the ones — the ones that are talking to you, but not really listening, their eyes are looking around searching out who else is in the room that may be more interesting, more important or more influential.
“The biggest no-no is not to be present in that moment. Focus on who you are speaking with, be interested in what they are saying and remove all distractions.”
What should you do if the conversation is stilted/awkward?
JG: “If the conversation is stilted and not going anywhere quite simply remove yourself from the conversation. You are at a networking function for a reason — it’s to meet people.
“Excuse yourself by going to get a drink or a trip to the bathroom. And its okay to explain that you came to this event to meet some new people, say it’s been lovely to meet you and excuse yourself politely so you can go and meet some other people.”
Do people still hand out their business cards or is that not done any more?
JG: “Some do, some don’t. Networking isn’t about handing out business cards — it’s about meeting people, connecting and sharing. LinkedIn is the worlds biggest rolodex!”
Any other tips you might have?
JG: “Networking is a choice — you can either choose to be superficial in your approach and realise the opportunity that exists when you build relationships through listening carefully and engaging in conversation.
“Time is our scarcest resource and therefore invest your time wisely building a network that works that will stretch your thinking, develop your mastery and open doors to new opportunities. Networking matters, but it’s the network of you that you develop that matters more.”