They say networking is essential to building your network, getting inspired, and finding the right opportunities. When you’re outgoing, this is no problem—but if you’re an introvert, you probably find yourself dreading these types of events. Luckily, you don’t have to change a thing about yourself to network your way to success. Below, we’re sharing seven ways to make connections without leaving your comfort zone.
This may seem cliché, but it’s true. Trying to force a new personality for the sake of making connections does you and your potential connections a disservice by concealing your true talents. One of your strongest traits as an introvert is your listening skills. Capitalize on that—people love talking about themselves, so ask lots of questions and learn all you can about your contacts and their work.
Strike a balance.
Not everyone is “on” all the time. It’s OK to need some alone time or turn down the occasional invitation. But if you find yourself making excuses for declining to attend events often, consider how you can partake in a way that feels comfortable. If your coworkers invite you to a weekly happy hour, try going once a month. If the team is heading to a networking event together, drive separately and use the time to decompress. Find small ways to make concessions for yourself so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on opportunities.
Take it online.
Gone are the days of in-person-only networking. With the advent of LinkedIn and other social networking sites, building a rapport with a new colleague is easier than ever. Online networking does take a bit more effort, though—while a traditional networking event means you’re likely milling around meeting a dozen or more people, the internet requires more focus. Start by connecting with people you already know, then branch out to virtually reach out to contacts you’re interested in getting to know. You’ll be surprised how small the world really is—it’s likely that many of your current colleagues can connect you with the people you’d like to meet.
Bring a friend.
If your industry thrives on real-life networking events, you may feel it behooves you to attend. But instead of facing the crowd alone, bring a friend or colleague who knows you might be a little shy or introverted in large groups. This person can be your buffer and handle introductions, so you can spend less energy on trying to figure out how to start conversations and more time actually having them.
Rule number one at a networking event: Put your phone away. We often use our devices as a shield from the outside world when we’re feeling awkward, but nobody wants to interrupt someone who’s checking email at a mixer. So take a deep breath, put your phone in your pocket, and smile! Even if you don’t feel comfortable approaching others, you’ll look friendly and approachable to them.
Ditch the group.
Big industry events are easy to find, but they might not be your cup of tea. Instead, look for (or create your own) small-group networking opportunities, like coffee or cocktail hour, golf outings, or even one-on-one meetings. Small groups make it easier to get to know everyone better, create deeper relationships, and make the most of each of your new connections—without having to spend the energy milling around in a conference room full of dozens of people.
Ask for help.
If you’re still feeling stuck, reach out to a matchmaker or staffing agency to help you bolster your network. At Premier, we don’t just get to know your resume. We invite you to a one-on-one meeting to learn more about you, your strengths, and your career goals, so we can help find the perfect opportunity for you. Want to learn more? Reach out and we’ll be in touch.