In the previous blog, you learned about the importance of taking breaks during networking events. An introvert’s energy resources are drained by social interactions, so taking time to recharge is mandatory for you to be on your best game with the people you really need to connect with. We also discussed the importance of following up with your new contacts in order to forge lasting connections.
Throughout this blog series, you learned 3 general strategies for improving your networking experience as an introvert. They each begin with the letter “P” and were adapted from Devora Zack’s book, Networking for People Who Hate Networking. Each component is based on skills that introverts tend to excel at:
- Prepare: organization, planning, think to talk
- Process: focus, one-on-one discussion, listening
- Pace: reflection, systematic follow-up, energize alone
At the beginning of this series, I lamented that most networking advice is directed at extroverts (ironically, since they naturally have an easier time networking). There are several common networking rules that we are now going to abandon and replace with better-suited networking rules for introverts:
|Get out there as much as possible||Prioritize people and companies that truly interest you, and chose structured or one-on-one networking opportunities|
|Promote your self constantly||Ask thoughtful questions to create a personal connection|
|Never eat alone||Use breaks and alone time to recharge and reflect|
|More contacts = higher probability of success||Small number of reliable contacts = higher probability of success|
After nearly a lifetime of being told to follow the old rules that are meant for extroverts, it will take practice and a shift in perspective to accept that your new strategies can be successful too.
Accept who you are
In Part I, I made an analogy to opera singers: a natural alto shouldn’t force herself into the role of a soprano. Another example, possibly closer to home, is handedness. Most instructions for learning to write are intended for people who write with their right hand. But if you’re left-handed, following the standard instructions for right-handers, you’re going to have a hard time. Instead of forcing yourself into a mold that doesn’t fit, why not follow advice that’s intended to match your particular skills?
Instead of being miserable at networking events, trying to use advice that isn’t meant for your character traits, identify your strengths and limitations and work with the temperament you have. Accept who you are: whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or centrovert, you already have the skills you need to be a successful networker! You just have to figure out which strategy works for you.
Example: I hate networking. Networking events make me feel insecure. I’m terrible at making small-talk with strangers. I know I have to try harder to become a better networker. But I really hate networking!
This is an example of negative self-talk. It’s easy to fall into the trap of circular negative thinking. You’re bad at networking because you hate it, and you hate networking because you’re bad at it. This kind of reasoning leads to a general compounding of terribleness, which I like to call “catastrophizing.”
Negative self-talk is reactive, exaggerated, limiting, and discouraging. In other words, it is not realistic and not productive.
Positive self-talk is reflective, realistic, encouraging, and pragmatic. Positive self-talk allows you to evaluate situations rationally, give yourself praise when you’ve done well, and learn how to improve if you’ve made a mistake.
Example: Although I felt a bit uncomfortable at the networking event today, I managed to connect with a person who will be a great addition to my network. I had a hard time explaining my project succinctly and stumbled over a few details, but Dr. Biotecha actually seemed very interested in my research. Next time, I will practice my pitch out loud so that I’ll know exactly what to say.
The focus of positive self-talk should be on learning how to improve, rather than on having done something wrong. Sometimes we do make serious mistakes or fail to accomplish a goal. But it doesn’t help to beat yourself up about it and get bogged down in the negative emotions. Failures aren’t just terrible, unfortunate end points. Failures produce results that allow you to improve.
Any time you don’t achieve what you set out to do, or you don’t perform up to your expectations, instead of saying “I failed”, reflect on these questions:
How could this happen?
What can I learn from this to improve in the future?
Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’
This is a very easy trick to start moving away from a negative, limiting perspective, to a positive, constructive one. “But” signifies that two things are opposed to each other and don’t belong together. “And” means that two things can coexist. How do these sentences make you feel differently about approaching networking?
I have to meet new people but I’m an introvert.
I have to meet new people and I’m an introvert.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably felt miserably under-connected compared to your extroverted peers, who are getting out there as much as possible, are always self-promoting, and have over 900 Facebook friends. And probably, like me, you’ve envied these apparent “super-connectors.”
But why does being well-connected have to imply high volume? After all, 850 of the super-connector’s 900 LinkedIn contacts will probably never lead to anything. The reason he collects so many contacts is because he can’t know which one of them will end up panning out.
Another approach to being well-connected is to be well connected with your contacts. If your network is composed of people who know you on a personal level and hear from you periodically, they are much more likely to recommend you or pass on job postings for you. This level of commitment is only possible with a smaller number of people.
So if you only have 120 Facebook friends, are you really under-connected? You can decide whether being ‘well-connected’ means having many connections or having strong connections. One strategy isn’t necessarily better than the other, in terms of leading to success. But each strategy is better suited for a different personality type.
On saying “no” to invitations
It can be hard to feel guilt-free about attending to your own needs, especially when it requires explicitly saying “no” to another person. Sometimes it is in your best interest not to join your co-workers for dinner, or not to attend the social hour at a conference.
In these cases, be confident in your refusal to join. Don’t give flimsy excuses that could be misinterpreted or refuted. An extrovert, with the best intentions, might try to convince you to join anyway, robbing you of precious decompression time.
Flimsy response: No, I’d love to join, but I have to get enough sleep tonight.
Confident response: No, thanks, I’m going to take it easy tonight.
Try to attend to your social ties when you can, but don’t feel guilty about saying no when you need to recharge. When you refuse an invitation, reframe the idea that you are rejecting the person or the group. You are simply using your time most effectively according to your needs. And they are making the most of their time in their own way.
‘As if’ frame
We all have beliefs and insecurities that keep us from achieving our full potential. It’s very difficult to willfully overturn those beliefs. I’m not asking you to accept overnight that you can be an excellent networker, even though you feel desperately under-connected right now. Don’t let these beliefs hold you back. When you find yourself in a networking opportunity, behave as if you believe yourself to be a confident networker. Behave as if you believe that asking thoughtful questions will lead to a reliable node in your network. See if the results prove you right!
Another way to use the ‘as if’ frame is when you’re feeling anxious about whether you’re in the right place or talking to the right person. In the networking strategy for introverts, it’s very important to connect with people who can become close, lasting contacts. What if you’re talking to someone who isn’t going to reciprocate the contact, or whose interests turn out not to align closely with yours? If you’re constantly worried about that, it will throw you off your game. Instead, act as if every person you meet is the right person for you to be talking to.
Life is a networking opportunity
So far, I’ve mostly talked in terms of networking in organized situations, such as networking events and conferences. But the truth is, you don’t have to go to a specific event to find contacts. Networking can happen in unexpected places. You could meet the editor of a science magazine on a plane, or a research director in line at the grocery store! Your friends, co-workers, and even your family, are points of contact as well. The brand new rules for networking that you learned during this blog series, apply in these situations as well. Unexpected opportunities can be difficult because they are more spontaneous, but on the other hand they are usually one-on-one. Be open to taking full advantage when life sets you up for accidental networking.
Hopefully you were able to take away some useful tips from this blog series. Since there is a wide spectrum of personality types, not every piece of advice might apply to you. Try out some different strategies and see what feels right and what produces results that you want.
10 Point Summary
- Use networking strategies that match your strengths
- 3 P’s: Prepare, Process, Pace
- Accept who you are and work with your temperament
- Use positive self-talk that is reflective, realistic, encouraging, and pragmatic
- Reframe failure as an opportunity to learn and improve
- Say “and” instead of “but”
- Say “no” with confidence without making excuses
- Behave ‘as if’
- Take advantage of unexpected networking opportunities
- Evaluate for yourself which strategies do or don’t work for you
** *Try a different networking strategy and let us know what works or doesn’t work for you! ***
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- Networking for People Who hate Networking, by Devora Zack
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
- Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi
- Self-Promotion for Introverts: A Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, Nancy Ancowitz