This post by Chelsei Henderson first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog, January 12th, 2016
The core difference between introverts and extroverts is the source of their energy. Introverts gather energy from their internal self, while extroverts gain energy from the external world around them.
When it comes to networking, one saying defines it best: Extroverts get energized by networking, while introverts become drained from the event.
But that doesn’t mean introverts can’t be great networkers. They can learn how to maintain their internal energy while meeting interesting new people who will help grow their freelance careers.
The hard fact of business is that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Networking is the act of getting to know more people with the goal of growing your career. It’s something that all freelancers need to learn, introverted and extroverted alike.
I’m about to break down exactly how introverts can become networking rock stars. By the end, you’ll be fully prepared to take on the world, or at least totally crush that next networking event.
Everyone Gets Nervous in the Beginning
Even the most extroverted people in the world are nervous when they first started out networking. Understanding that your nervousness is normal will actually help minimize it.
Consider that almost everyone else at the networking event will be nervous – even long time pros.
If you want to help calm your nerves, LinkedIn published an excellent guide for overcoming nervousness when attending networking events. I particularly enjoy their tip to arrive early before large groups form, as joining a group conversation can be nerve-wracking for new networkers.
Start With Small, Attainable Goals
Don’t go to your first networking event with the hopes of landing your dream client, or multiple dream clients. Or even a single client.
Instead, create smaller, more attainable goals. The main purpose of networking is to exchange contact information with people.
Decide the type of contact information you want, and try to get X amount of contacts. You may prefer email, Skype ID, phone numbers or social media links. Pick one, and try to find people you connect with.
Present Your Authentic Self
Presenting your authentic self is a phrase entirely too overused and too misunderstood. Discovering your authentic self, much less learning how to present it, is something that takes most people consistent effort.
In the professional world, most people present their “invented” self. This is a persona designed to be non-confrontational and friendly. Introverts are guilty of doing this regularly, as being agreeable is easier.
Yet, to truly enjoy networking events, you need to be yourself. Trying to maintain an invented self throughout the event will make it more draining than it needs to be.
Plus, if people get to know an invented self that doesn’t correspond with who you really are, that will become obvious if a professional relationship does form.
Find and Bond With the Other Introverts
There will absolutely be other introverts who forced themselves to attend the event. They’ll be experiencing much of the same nervousness and apprehension as you.
Introverts at networking events can unite and enjoy the same benefits as their extroverted counterparts.
Approach people standing by themselves, staring endlessly on their phone or otherwise looking nervous and introduce yourself. All you have to say is “hello,” followed by your name, and then ask their name. Couple that little introduction with a smile, and you’re golden. The right people will respond positively and a conversation will begin.
If you’re in the same industry and might be able to work together, great. If not, then you can buddy up and move around the event together.
Be Attentive to Your Body Language
Body language is always important.
While different sources argue about what percentage of communication is nonverbal, they all agree that it’s most of it. You might say all the right things, but if your body language is wrong, it’ll come off the wrong way. This may result in you missing out on a great connection.
Body language is an all-encompassing term that includes:
- Facial expressions
- Tone and voice
While you can learn all about the different types of body language, it’s almost impossible to fake. This further emphasizes the importance of being your authentic self – it’ll shine through anyway!
Being attentive to your body language, however, doesn’t mean faking it. It means checking in with your body and making sure it’s sending the right message. Even if all you do is stay aware of eye contact and open arms (not crossed), that will help ensure you’re sending the right messages.
Don’t Forget About Online Networking
Online networking may have been the best thing to ever happen to professional introverts. Now, you’re able to showcase your knowledge and meet new people all on your terms and from the comfort of your home.
Online networking still requires a certain skillset, however. You don’t want to make some of these vital mistakes of LinkedIn, the best network for professional connections, such as having a bad photo or not taking advantage of your 2,000 character summary.
The real power of online networking for introverts is showcasing your knowledge and the value you can bring to the table. LinkedIn and Google+ (which is actually great for networking) both allow for long-form posts. Do you have something to say that others in your industry will appreciate? Type it up!
Then, let people know about it. All you need to do is message connections and say, “hey, I just posted something I think you’ll be interested in. Check it out!”
Introverts Can Become Master Networkers
Introverts are underestimated in the business world. Often viewed as excellent employees, but not entrepreneurs, there’s a certain stigma that goes along with being an introvert.
You can use this underestimation to your advantage.
Attend networking events, and showcase your quiet brilliance. A friend once told me, in reference to college guys, “the loudest is the weakest.” If you take that as truth, then the quietest is the strongest – as long as they speak up at the right moment.
Are you an introvert? If so, how did you become skilled at networking? Have you had any experiences with the above guide?