Networking for Introverts 101
There are many myths about us introverts raging from that we are anti-social to that we can fix being an introvert ourselves. Of course non- are true, but you already knew that since you are probably introverted yourself. Still from time to time; we might want to get out our comfort zone in networking environments, particularly those of us with high career ambitions. We can grow our network without changing our nature by approaching things differently and use our strengths at our advantage. The strongest one being that we actually tend to listen to people’ instead of just blabbing out endlessly like some clueless extroverted people that don’t realize they are being annoying. This post will discuss networking for introverts in two social settings. In a networking event or mixers which may consist of large groups of people and on 1-on-1 situations where we excel.
Everything important has already been said in the past by the great thinkers and philosophers. Habits are the corner stone of everything of importance you want to do in life. That’s why everything that follows is designed to be implemented as some form of habit formation and using systems to adquire those habits. Below there is video from on entrepreneur.com that clearly explains why systems and habits are way more important than goals. The video will give a better understanding of why you should focus primarily on your everyday habits over setting a goal.
Make it official by scheduling time
Only 8% of Americans achieve their New Year resolutions. The problem might be that the majority of people have limited willpower. There is a significant amount of research finding that willpower is limited. Change is hard and the way to make it less painful is by making small changes that increment over time using automated systems. This has been proposed by BJ Fogg of Stanford University. Using all this research as pillars, we can build a framework to start developing all the social skills needed to interact with people. The most important thing is to start with small goals. Don’t expect to be the life of a party in one month (not that you want to) if all your life you have been uncomfortable with talking to strangers and the only way you could do it was by playing videogames in your basement. Start changing by scheduling time that will go towards activities that relate to your social goals. Use a calender to plan your activities on a weekly basis. I use google calender myself for it’s automatic reminders that I need to complete my scheduled tasks.
Building a habit of socializing in mixers
By starting with small goals and scheduling time you will actually be starting the process of building socializing habits.
The definition of a habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
To re frame in another context habits are part of your personality and this is why only a small group of people are able to achieve their goals, because in other to accomplish a goal we need to develop a series of new habits which in turn requires us to change our personalities. Whoa.
This is why we cannot change overnight and it requires a lot of practice and patience. Sounds like a lot of work? It is, but it helps a lot if you keep it small. I’m talking Ant-Man kind of small here people.
I highly recommend using meetup.com to get the ball rolling to search for groups that you share similar interest. Make sure to sign on for a group that meets at least once a month minimum. In the first meeting talk to at least one person by your own initiative use the following template questions for starters. These questions are guaranteed to at minimum; make a 15 minute conversation, because it will inevitably lead to other questions. I have done this countless times and I end up always talking more than 15 minutes in worst case scenarios when I find the other person is on a non-chatty mood. Never approach anybody eating. Trust me I know.
Hi my name is______. What yours?
Have you been to this meetup before?
Have you been to other meetups like these? How those this compare to the others?
Are you from around here? If they come from another city follow up with the next question. Otherwise skip it.
What brought you here?
What do you do?
What’s your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
Don’t like the questions? Feel free to make up your own, just be sure to include as many open questions that won’t give you a Yes or No answer. When you ask them remember that things will go easier if you shut up and actually listen. Don’t think about yourself, think about the other person and you may find that their answers could easily lead to other topics of discussion, then you can add more questions of your own to the template questions.
To put it on a mathematical perspective, you should only talk 20% of the time and the other person should talk 80%. If it makes it easier to remember another way to concentrate on the other person rather than yourself is to always act like the host of the party. Of course introverts should have no problem with this. As you get comfortable in these conversations try to make yourself valuable by being of value to the other person by offering genuine compliments, give useful information that might help them on way or another or sharing stories that validate their points of views one way or another.
After you have asked these template questions to different people and you start feeling comfortable with yourself you will start noticing their body language. For example, If you notice their body not looking towards you at any time then make a graceful exit by saying the it was a pleasure to meet them and you will see them around and move on to the next person. Always follow up with people that you meet in mixers, at least with the ones you felt rapport.
Your body language
Your own body language affects any outcome in a group setting. You don’t want to be that person who is always looking at the phone pretending to be busy. You also don’t want to hover around people awkwardly. Always walk in a room with purpose and act as if you were a curious kid. When you enter the room say hi to the closest person on the door and exchange a few words of banter. Banter is a way talk or exchange remarks in a good-humored teasing way. It’s just meaningless conversation and you don’t need a reply. It’s absolutely critical that you smile after saying these lines. After all you are supposed to have fun. Here a few example lines of banter, make it your own so that it feels natural.
Hi, this is going to be an awesome party I can feel it.
You guys look like the life of the party here.
Quit your day job. I’ll double your salary. You can be my bodyguard.
Now this is what you do instead of just looking at your cellphone in a party/mixer. Just walk in the room and say hi to whoever is at the door. If there are drinks served then head straight to just check out where they are at, but don’t take one just yet. Then walk around the room saying your banter lines to whoever makes eye contact with you and next try to find the bathroom. Use it, even if it’s just to look at yourself in the mirror and then head back to get your drink. The purpose of all this is to just get a feel of all the people in the party. By then the majority of people should be aware of your presence and hopefully you would have established yourself as a person who has confidence. Then proceed to talk to one of the people you already said hi to (or a group of people) and work your way around always remembering to act curious about the world around you.
Now I know that for many introverts this may sound scary. However, it’s important not to expect things to go to smoothly the first time. Do it a few times and make an analysis after each mixer to think about what things you made right and what things need more practice. Also if you are being to nervous about the whole situation; it is probably because you are thinking about you, when you should really be focusing on the people and their feelings. Remember, it’s all about them not about you.
Meeting for coffee
There are many times when you may want to meet someone you don’t know in a 1 on 1 basis. Let’s say for example you want to meet a person for a company you would like to work for in the future. Do your research and go to Linkedin and find a few candidates and pick one (or a few) that you feel that you could connect to because of things you have in common. If you are lucky you might find that you already have friends in common either in Linkedin itself or Facebook. If that’s the case then reach out to friends in common to either ask them for an introduction or ask them if they recommend you to reach out to your person of interest yourself.
Now most people include in their profiles their personal websites and social networks, whether that be Twitter or Facebook. Start following them and make interactions with them online first so they can get a feel of who you are. Then you can just send them a very short and to the point e-mail and invite them for coffee to ask them questions about how it’s like to work in their company. Below is an example.
My name is X. Our mutual friend of ours XYZ, recommended me to reach out to you.
(Always mention what you have in common in the first line whether it’s a mutual friend or common interest)
I’d love to get your career advice for 15-20 minutes. I’m currently working at Wayne Enterprises, but lately I have becoming more interested in Lexcorp.
(Go straight to the point)
Do you think I could pick your brain on your job and how you came to Lexcorp? I’d especially love to know what skills are most helpful to handle your day to day activities.
(The phrase pick up your brain is always a compliment, because you acknowledge that they know more than you)
I can meet you for coffee or at your office…or wherever it’s convenient. I can work around you!
Would it be possible for us to meet?
(Make it easy for them, In many cases I suggest a date and time myself that may be convenient for them)
Make sure you have a clear purpose when trying to meet them 1 on 1. Don’t just invite them to talk about your life. As a guideline think of 1 to 5 professional questions (mostly about them) and only at the end ask them to give you some advice related to what your trying to accomplish. After the meeting follow up with other emails explaining how there advice is helping you to achieve your goals. For more in depth details of how to send e-mails check out my free ebook.
Networking for introverts doesn’t need to be a chore if you make it more about really making connections. It’s all about making truthful relationships and not about what you can get from the other person. Remember to always give without expecting anything in return and eventually with time people might help you…maybe, and that should be alright with you.