Career Advice

3 Ways to Network as an Introvert

By Kylie Jane Wakefield June 26th, 2014

Introversion is in my DNA.

I don’t like small talk or introducing myself. I don’t function well at large events. And my first instinct at a party is to check my phone. But the truth is, when you’re self-employed, it can be a detriment to your career if you’re introverted. You need to constantly promote yourself and socialize to make connections and find jobs.

As someone who has a brain that always tells her to look at an email instead of approaching a possible contact, I’ve found my own ways to network. These methods feel right to me, and allow me to put myself out there without feeling uncomfortable.

If you’ve been struggling to make the right connections, these strategies may be able to help your career without breaking your embarrassment barometer:

1. Be real with people

It’s normal to dislike big events and cocktail parties. But instead of seeing them as nuisances, try to view them as necessary evils. Look at all the attendees as if they’re little gurus who can get you the information you need to succeed in your field. Who knows? Maybe you can bond with a new friend over your hatred of networking.

When you approach someone at a networking event, say something honest or make an observation. Once I was at a Freelancers Union cocktail party in SoHo, frantically texting my boyfriend because I was scared to go up to anyone. When the initial freak-out passed, I went up to a man and told him how awkward these types of events were. He agreed, and we got to talking. I found out he was a graphic designer, and he often needed copywriters for ads he created. I gave him my card, and a few months later, we were working together.

If you don’t want to tell a stranger how you’re feeling, connect on something else. If a person is drinking the same beer as you, talk about that. If you like what someone is wearing, fire off a compliment. You’ll find that a lot of people are as uncomfortable as you and want to talk about something real rather than listing their accomplishments.

2. Meet one-on-one

When I first moved to Los Angeles, the hobnobbing Mecca, I was given the best piece of networking advice I’ve ever heard: Invite someone you admire out for coffee. It pays off on both a personal and professional level.

Being an introvert means you don’t have time for fluff; you like to get down to the nitty-gritty of a conversation. Meeting someone one-on-one allows you to effectively do that without the nerves that come with approaching new people in large group settings. Plus, people are flattered when you ask them for advice.

The worst thing that can happen is someone will say no. And if people are too busy, they can always counter with an invitation to talk over the phone or email.

3. Connect in a digital space

This next piece of advice isn’t a Get Out Of Jail Free card. However, it’s still important to talk with people over email. Doing so eliminates most of the pressure, and you can easily end the conversation when you have the information you need or feel like the person is tired of answering your questions.

Additionally, joining a LinkedIn group relating to your career can be an effective way to start discussions. If you find one or two people have solid advice, ask to continue the digital dialogue privately. I’ve done this a few times, and it’s led to writing opportunities I never would have found on my own.

Now go out there, send some emails, make a few calls, buy someone a latte, and embrace being an introvert. You can still network; just do it in your own low-key way.

Image by Nikol Lohr
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