An Introvert’s Guide to Networking: Tips and Advice for Building Work Relationships

FT Contributor
An introverted woman looking lonely while at a networking event.
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While networking is a great way to make professional connections and advance your career, introverts may find it more difficult to put themselves out there than others. For introverted people, it may be a challenge to open up to strangers and talk to new people out of the blue. Despite this, there are many ways for introverts to overcome the stress of networking and learn how to successfully network with other people in their industry.

By adopting these strategies, introverts can reap the benefits of networking without venturing too far out of their safety zone. Whether you’re promoting a small business or side hustle, looking for new employment opportunities, or simply wanting to develop more contacts in your field, networking can be a great way to get your name out there and meet people who may be able to benefit your career.

Use Online Networking

There are many opportunities for online networking, which is a great way for introverts to make professional connections from the comfort of their own home. Sites like LinkedIn can help you connect with people who have similar backgrounds or work in the same field.

In addition, there are often a variety of other groups and forums online for different industries, educational backgrounds, and regions. Try joining career and community pages for alumni of your college or university, and see if there are any local online groups you can join for people working in your field.

While online networking may not be able to entirely replace in-person connections, it is a great way to get your name out there, investigate new job opportunities, and become a part of a community.

Bring a Friend or Colleague

When attending a networking event, it’s always a good idea to bring a friend or colleague if possible. That way, you’ll already know someone else at the event, and you can meet new people together if you’re too nervous to approach strangers on your own.

In particular, an extroverted colleague with a different personality type is an asset when it comes to networking events. Bringing along a friend will make the whole networking experience less intimidating, and will give you the confidence to meet people you might not have met otherwise.

Keep Up Your Relationships

It’s easy to forget to maintain your professional connections, especially for introverts. Despite this, however, it’s important to preserve and nurture these connections for them to do any good. While it might seem draining to have to continually manage these relationships, there are a few simple, easy steps you can take to make it more manageable.

It’s always a good idea to send a short note or email after making a professional connection to express your gratitude for their time. In addition, set reminders for yourself to check in every so often on colleagues and acquaintances you met through networking. Even just grabbing coffee once in a while or exchanging a few emails will help you strengthen these connections and further develop your skills at networking.

Be Personable

Even if the idea of networking makes your blood run cold, it’s important to maintain a personable and professional persona at networking events and when networking in general. This ensures that colleagues and potential colleagues will see you in a positive light, and they will be more likely to want to get to know you and assist you with your career.

If you have difficulty maintaining a helpful and happy persona with strangers, it may help to remember that it doesn’t have to be entirely genuine. In fact, it’s helpful to adopt a cheerful, personable persona to mask any nervousness or anxiety you might be feeling.

Be Available

Networking works best when you’re approachable and available. Make sure your contacts have a reliable way of reaching you, whether that be a phone number, email address, or on a social platform like LinkedIn or Slack. It’s also a good idea to reply promptly and professionally to any messages you receive from networking contacts. If you’re uncomfortable with phone calls, you can always omit a phone number from business cards and contact info exchanges, and opt to do business primarily over email.

Set Goals

Determining your networking goals will help inform your strategy as you build relationships with other professionals in your field. Whether you’re looking for new job opportunities, need career advice, or simply want to develop more professional connections, different goals may require different strategies when it comes to networking.

For example, if you’re looking for funding for a small business or new venture, it’s a good idea to reach out to people more established in your industry for advice and funding sources. You can also get advice about the nuts and bolts of applying for loans, hiring employees, and establishing a customer base.

If you’re networking to discover new job opportunities, it’s a good idea to make connections with people who regularly hire or train new employees. These contacts may help you polish your resume and they could point you in the right direction when new opportunities come up.

While building a network of colleagues and acquaintances may come effortlessly for some people, it’s a good idea for introverts who struggle with networking to clearly define their goals and plans in order to get the most out of networking.

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