As an introvert, I’ve always found it extremely difficult to start up conversations with new people. While I have no trouble opening up to someone after a few minutes of getting to know them, it can be frightening to make that first move. That is why when I started networking, I got easily intimidated when introducing myself—hindering my ability to express myself in the best way. Since networking is such a crucial part to any industry, it’s important for shy people to master the skill of networking. This isn’t to say that you need to act as an extrovert to impress others, but rather to implement small changes into the way you network so that you can show your true self without hiding who you are. Here are five useful networking tips for introverts.
Use Email As a Networking Tool
When it comes to networking tips for introverts, writing is one thing that gives us introverts the security of being able to double check what we say before we say it. With today’s technology, networking is possible without a face-to-face introduction. While it’s still important to learn to be articulate on the spot, writing can at least provide a “foot-in-the-door” introduction.
University of California Los Angeles student Anastacia Kellogg discovered a few ways that help her get past her nerves. “I’ve found that leveraging my writing skills (rather than my social ones) helps me get over that social anxiety. You can find a template for almost any kind of situation online—business emails, LinkedIn messages, etc—to get your foot in the door. Then it’s just a matter of being both witty and professional in a space where you have the freedom to look over your words and fine-tune your message before hitting ‘send,’” she says. There are various forms of written communication but for the quickest response, emails are a safe bet.
Start your introductory message with a bit about yourself followed by what interests you about the company. Then include how you look forward to hearing from them soon. This message should also have your contact information so they can get a hold of you. Finally, thank them for taking the time to read your message.
Practice Phrasing Your Elevator Pitch In Different Ways
As introverts, it’s often difficult to articulate our words clearly in stressful situations. What we mean to say can often be misinterpreted and cushioned with filler words such as “like” or “um.” You want your first impression to be great, so it’s important to practice what you mean to say before networking. It sounds simple, but having the right pitch can be a difficult skill to master. It’s important to highlight some positive qualities you could bring to a company while staying true to who you are. The last thing you want to do in an already nerve-wracking situation is to use a pitch that sounds unnatural.
University of Florida student Peyton Whittington says, “I always formulate a general outline of what I want to say before I network so I don’t fumble over my words, but I practice several different ways to phrase it and with different tones. Trying to stick to an elevator pitch has made me feel robotic in the past, so I try to practice being adaptable.” The key is to not sound too rehearsed so that the conversation can be more relaxed.
As Peyton suggests, phrase your elevator pitch in a few different ways. You want to keep the topic of the pitch the same while changing how you talk about it. It sounds complicated, but you can practice this by asking your peers to interview you. Work on incorporating your pitch into the conversation during the faux interview. This way you can use the phrase that feels most comfortable in that specific situation. Even if your pitch is authentic, sounding too robotic can make you appear nervous to others.
Invite a Friend to Network with You
In any situation, not knowing someone in a big crowd can be an uncomfortable feeling, and networking events are no exception. To boost your confidence, have a friend go with you. This will give you someone to talk to in between conversations with people you don’t know. You can provide support to each other when the nerves start to creep up. And, if you’re scared to talk to a company, you can approach it together so you don’t feel alone.
Samantha Parson, a student at Wesley College says, “Try getting a plus one or go with people or a person you know already so you feel less alone. Always gravitate toward the people on the outskirts of the crowd as they also tend to be introverted. You can connect with someone who has a similar mentality as you and can conquer the rest of the event together.”
If you don’t have a friend to go to an event with, use it as an opportunity to meet someone new. As Samantha points out, the people on the outskirts of a crowd are usually just as shy as you. They may not seem social because they’re waiting for someone else to make the first move. It may be outside of your comfort zone, but try being the person to start a conversation with an unfamiliar face. Networking shouldn’t just be between an individual and a company. In any industry, networking with peers is just as useful as networking with mentors. With peers, you can learn from each other and help one another out when building a career. Bringing or making a friend can prevent you from feeling alone.
Talk to People Who Really Interest You
Sometimes speaking with a person can seem intimidating when you feel that you have nothing in common with them. It can be easier to connect with someone when you share the same interests. One of the best networking tips for introverts is to make sure that the people you reach out to have careers that really interest you. Fashion Institute of Technology student Brittney Hughes explains that doing this can make the conversation feel a lot more natural.
“Reach out to people you are actually interested in learning about or learning from. When something about someone’s job position, success story, or career genuinely strikes your curiosity and thirst for knowledge, you’d be surprised how much more natural and beneficial the conversation is,” she says.
To start the conversation, go to the company or person you admire and tell them what you love about them. It’s important to be sincere when complimenting, as they can probably tell when someone is buttering them up. Ask questions that you truly want answers to, not questions that you think would impress the company. This way you’ll show authentic interest in the brand and won’t feel like you’re just there to impress others.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Yes, networking is stressful and when it’s over you may feel relieved. But you’re really not done until you follow up. Remember to reach out with a small note to the person you talked to. A lot of people assume that as long as they’ve impressed an individual or company they will be contacted directly. The problem is that during a networking event companies meet with a lot of different people. So while you may have impressed them, they may not remember to follow up with you. This is why you need to be the one to initiate a connection after networking.
Sarah Singer, student at Quinnipiac University says, “You can send companies a personal note that includes how they know you or how they might remember you and why you want to connect with them.” When you meet for the first time, end the conversation by swapping contact information—preferably through business cards. This way you can directly send an email or thank you note to the person you spoke with.
The message should start off by thanking the individual for taking the time to talk to you. Then include what you took away from the conversation. If you hadn’t provided them with your contact information when you first met, end the message with how the company can reach out to you in the future. The message may be concise, but it shows your initiative and interest in the company.
Do you have any tips on networking as an introvert? Leave your comments down below!
Opening image by Reina Inoguchi.