No matter who you are, networking can be intimidating. You are making connections with people you may not know as well with the hopes of establishing relationships to help you grow your career down the line. However, for introverts, networking can be even scarier. Going to events and making small talk are not exactly things introverts enjoy. If you relate to this, there are things you can do to make networking less scary and be successful.
Do not apologize
You may be tempted to apologize, especially if you feel like you are infringing on their time. Most people you network with are happy to meet you and will be supportive. You may feel like apologizing is respectful, but it may come across as a lack of confidence and professionalism to the person you are networking with. If you do find yourself wanting to apologize, say something along the lines of “Hi. Not to take up much of your time, but…” This shows that you have confidence and can communicate well.
Find common ground
Building relationships work out better if you can find things you have in common. Whether it is a common interest or goals you each want to achieve, finding these commonalities will make networking easier as you are able to collaborate together on projects or goals in the future. You can work on tasks and ideas, making the exchange of ideas and information that much more seamless.
Host your own event
Going to a networking event can be intimidating. You do not know how many people will show up or what activities will be there. Hosting your own event can give you the control to know exactly who will be there and plan what activities you want to do and feel comfortable with. You may even opt to limit how many people you allow to come to make it a more intimate networking event. This can help you ease any nerves you have. It may be informal, but you will be comfortable and have control over the structure of the event.
Use social media
Face-to-face networking can be downright terrifying. Using social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or even Facebook can help you find people with shared interests and goals. These sites can be used from the comfort of your phone or computer, which eliminates the need to meet people in person unless you decide to. You can meet new people based on jobs you may want or even by seeing what local clubs are near you. Social media may also help you before a networking event. If you know who will be at an event, see if you can find them on LinkedIn or another social media site so you have a general idea of who they are and you can start a conversation with them.
Have conversation starters ready
Having a conversation starter in mind can help you get the ball rolling. Whether it is talking about something on TV or the news or asking about local restaurants, having something to draw someone into the conversation can be a great way to get to know someone. These may also help you find common ground, especially if you like the same TV shows or types of food. You may even decide to tell an appropriate funny story as humor tends to make a person more memorable.
Set realistic goals
While the networking event may have a lot of people, do not feel the need to network with every single person there. Set up a realistic goal for yourself. This may mean meeting one new person or reconnecting with people you have met before. Challenge yourself, but do not feel pressured to talk to everyone in attendance at the event. That kind of pressure will not only intimidate you, but the connections you make with the people you do meet will not be as solid as you will have limited time with each person.
Reach out to professors
Reaching out to your professors is an easy way to network. Your professors are likely experts in the field you want to go into, and they may even still have connections. Attend office hours or set up an appointment to introduce yourself and let them know of your career goals. Take this opportunity to get to know them a little bit better as well and ask about their experience throughout their career. Contrary to popular belief, professors want their students to succeed in class and in their careers, so they will be happy that you are making the effort and taking the time to introduce yourself. Even if they did something slightly different than you want to do, they may know people who are doing your dream job.
Networking as someone who is shy or is an introvert can be intimidating, but it is possible to make good connections with those around you. Knowing what to say and having tools and resources available can help you be prepared for meeting new people and making connections.