Let me know if this sounds familiar, you’ve started your business, or you’ve been going for years and you’re told that in order to get clients rolling in, you need to do some networking. Oh, and by networking, they meant actually going to networking events and talking to people (hello introvert nightmare!).
So you get some snazzy business cards printed and pluck up the courage to attend a local event. Once there you feel immediately uncomfortable. You set yourself silly goals like ‘I’ll get rid of X number of business cards’, or ‘I’ll talk to X number of people and then I can go home’.
You might manage to talk to one or two people who just so happen to do something similar before the night’s over and at that point, you feel like you’ve failed. After all, you got no new business.
In your heart, you know this isn’t working but you blame yourself because you’re an introvert so that must be the problem.
You’re not alone
But here’s the thing, you’re not alone, heck, even a good chunk of extroverts don’t like this type of networking. You know why? Because it only works for a very specific type of person. Here’s who this works for:
- The people organising the event – they get kudos and authority.
- Business bigwigs – to be frank, they probably don’t need the connections, so any they make is a bonus.
- Business people who just want to chat with other business people.
Feel better? Yeah me too. Realising that the type of networking you’ve been beating yourself up over for years doesn’t work, is pretty liberating. But this doesn’t mean that all networking is pointless, because this type has simply given it a bad wrap.
So let’s move on from our bad experiences and tackle networking for introverts that actually works.
Different types of networking
We’ve already illustrated the standard type of networking we’re all most familiar with, so including this, let’s explore some others:
- Networking events usually organised by event companies or local organisations
- Networking events specifically in your niche – probably also organised by a local business
- Meetups with friends, people with similar interests and even family – this is still networking, especially if you talk about what you do
But let’s not forget that online networking is still networking and I bet you do it all the time. Here’s a list in case you don’t think you do:
- Commenting on Instagram posts, Tweets, Facebook posts etc
- Commenting on blogs
- Emailing site owners you admire
- Replying to emails sent your way
- Cold emailing
- Video calls
All of this and more is networking. So now we know you’re already doing it pretty regularly, let’s explore how to do it well.
Networking advice for introverts
As introverts, talking about ourselves is hard. Usually, we let other people talk, we listen and only jump in when we feel it’s necessary or our voices are going to be heard.
For this reason, we perceive networking to be very difficult.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can use this listening skill to our advantage and perfect our networking skills in a way that suits us introverts the best.
Here’s the piece of advice that helped me the most when it came to networking:
Look at networking as farming, not hunting.
The first example I gave was hunting. The sole purpose of you attending a networking event like this is to gain business. You don’t really care about the other people there, you’re in it for you. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But there’s no denying the truth, this is just how we perceive networking events to work. But of course, it doesn’t work, does it?
Plant some seeds
So instead of hunting, we’re going to farm instead – sounds much nicer doesn’t it?
To make it really simple, when we farm, we plant a seed, tend to it and watch it grow strong. Then when it’s ready (and only when it’s ready), we harvest.
This is real networking.
A good analogy isn’t it? But we need to address the most important part – the seed.
When networking, the key is to come from a place of generosity instead of immediately looking to gain something from the other person. The seed, therefore, is your act of generosity. The seed you plant to start the relationship blooming.
Here’s an example. You’re chatting online to someone in the same niche as you, and you see they’re in need of some help with setting up a landing page. This is something you’ve worked on before so you point them in the direction of a resource you used and let them know they can ask you questions any time. That’s your seed.
They use the resource, set up their page a few weeks later and thank you for your help. Because you helped them, they recommend you to a podcast host they know and land you a spot on a great podcast. That seed has now grown and without you realising, your generosity has resulted in something of benefit.
This type of networking works both online and off, so next time you’re talking to someone, browsing their Instagram feed, basically paying attention to what they’re saying or doing, think about how you can help. Is there something you can give them or refer them to that will help?
Not only will you feel good about it, but you might get something in return down the line.
Network like an introvert
As introverts, it’s within our power to be wonderful networkers. I bet you can immediately spring to mind many occasions in which you’ve helped others, this in itself is networking.
It doesn’t have to apply only to the people you think could be clients or customers either. We simply don’t know the type of connections other people have. If you spot a seed you can plant, do it, you never know when it will pay you back.
So, has this article changed your perspective on networking for introverts? Do you have any other tips you’ve learned over the years? Leave them in the comments below.
Featured image by Christina @ wocintechchat.com