Close your eyes and picture your average networking scenario.
People flashing smiles and friendly looks of approval.
Unruly mobs shaking hands and exchanging business cards.
Whipping out packets of tissue paper and slamming it down onto a table with the dexterity of a seasoned gambler – oh wait, that’s just the lunchtime crowd.
Whatever you imagine networking to be, making new connections means putting yourself out there, overtly and often.
Networking is, in other words, a game for extroverts. This doesn’t mean that extroverts are the best networkers, or that introverts can’t make valuable connections with people. Regardless of your appetite for casual conversation and cocktails, here are five ways to navigate through the noise.
1. Take a quality over quantity approach.
We’ll be blunt. If there’s only one thing you can take away from this article, it should be this; focus on developing strong relationships with a few super-connectors, people who already have their own highly developed networks you can tap into. The fact is, trying to maintain a glut of contacts is time consuming and broadly unproductive. All that you’ll most likely end up with is too many people you know too little about and who will have too little to offer.
2. You don’t have to fill the silence.
Nobody likes awkward silences. As an extrovert, you are particularly sensitive to lulls in conversation. Rather than rushing to fill them yourself, ask questions or make observations that give others the opportunity to bring something new to the interaction.
So stop asking about someone’s job, where they’re from and start commenting on a recent news story and asking for someone’s perspective. It demonstrates that you’re knowledgeable about current events and interested in your new contact’s ideas.
3. Listen, don’t talk.
If you’re unsure what to discuss, let the other person do the talking. Introverts do know how to listen, and lucky for them, most people like being listened to.
4. Network with other introverts
The great thing about networking with other introverts is that you do not, at any point, have to upgrade the relationship to loud nights together in which you hop from bar to bar in Clarke Quay, doing deals over drinks. You can keep the relationship entirely online, or possibly venture out of your respective caves for coffee.
5. Follow up thoughtfully.
After you’ve had a good conversation with someone, be sure to reach out to them in a way that shows you valued your time together. If you send an email, pro tip: end with a question to keep the conversation going.
This kind of follow up–the kind that reflects your conversation. Everyone wants to feel valued, and a quick, thoughtful email can achieve that goal even better than swag imprinted with your logo.
The bottomline is; 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 in the end, introverts really are just as well equipped as extroverts when it comes to mingling with the crowd.