When you hear about a job networking event, would you rather hide in a cardboard box than socialize? Do you find it hard to connect with new business contacts?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you might be on the more introverted side of the personality spectrum. As pointed out in Psychology Today: “Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative, pursuits.” While this can be an incredible strength in many scenarios, when it comes to business networking, introverts often need some help to be successful.
I personally oscillate between introversion and extroversion, based on my mood and the situation I’m in. Along the way, I learned 5 simple steps that have helped me connect more easily with people at networking events.
5 Hacks to Network Effectively as an Introvert
- Remember your new “friend’s” name – In a room with lots of noise and people, this can be really difficult, so make it a priority! As Dale Carnegie says in his famous book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” the sweetest sound to a person is the sound of their own name. Feel free to repeat their name back to them in conversation. If you haven’t read Carnegie’s book, you should. It’s a valuable resource on how to deal with people in general. I try to reread it each year.
- Lead conversation like a pro – This can be the hardest part for introverted people, but it’s essential to break the ice and get a meaningful conversation flowing. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Ask the person questions about the event and how he or she likes it. If your ocean of great questions is drier than the desert at high noon, just ask what they’re passionate about. Make the conversation about them. People like to talk about themselves, given the chance. In my opinion and practice, it helps tremendously if you genuinely want to know more about the person. You can learn something new from everyone you meet.
- Quality over quantity – Focus on having deeper conversations with just a few people, instead of handing out business cards like a networking automaton. This will serve you better in the short and long run. My shortcut to finding people I’d like to meet is to ask the organizer if she or he can point those people out, or even make the introductions.
- Take notes – Right after the event go through the business cards you collected and write down details about the people you just met — what is important about them? — while the information is still fresh in your mind. I scribble the information on their business cards and then upload it into an online service called “Cardmunch” that syncs with LinkedIn. With a press of a button I can add these new contacts to my contact list in LinkedIn, and I never have to worry about losing the business cards.
- Follow up within 24 hours – After you’ve captured the important information, it’s time to write a follow-up note to the new contacts. A friendly note or email will strengthen the impression you made at the event. Extra credit: If you attend a future event where you’re likely to run into your new-found “friend,” review their information ahead of time (especially their name,) and use it in conversation when you see them again. That will make a lasting impression.
You don’t need to be the life of the party to make connections that will propel your career. Very few of us are born charismatic networkers, but with some time and practice you can become really good at it. The great news is that it is possible to acquire this skill set and develop a comfort level exercising it. Just practice those 5 hacks next time you network and observe the difference.
Do you have networking hacks that work well for you? Share them with us in the comments.