For decades, professional networking has been recognised as a necessary skill for career and business progression.
Now, thanks to the advancement of modern technology and the expansion of offers on the Internet, you can easily make a business connection with someone halfway across the world.
Business negotiations can take place over Skype, and payments are easily processed by wire banking transfers, or other online payment gateways that allow secured transactions.
Whether in business or career, every one of us relies on the people around us, or our network, to get ahead. Take good care of your network and you can supercharge your career advancement or sky-rocket your business profits.
Does networking work well for everyone? Most likely not!
Let me explain…
I have found 3 groups of people when it comes to networking:
- Those who know its potential and use it well to their advantage,
- Those who know its potential but do not use it, either because they do not know how or they do not want to,
- Those with have no clue as to what networking can do for them.
Networking requires meeting and connecting with people. For the introvert, the thought of meeting new people can seem daunting.
- Do you find yourself wanting to wiggle out of social situations?
- Do you feel drained after attending a party or meeting a group of people?
- Does the thought of business networking make you squirm in your seat?
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, welcome to the world of introverts!
As an introvert who provides training and consulting in professional networking, I always stump the attendees of my workshops when I reveal that I am not the extrovert they thought me to be.
In fact, it seems like an oxymoron to claim that I, the introvert, can help people succeed in business networking, since my personality inclines me to be less enthusiastic about meeting people, particularly new ones.
Networking by introverts – really?
Very few people can see a connection between networking and introverts.
Many have the impression that networking is a forte of extroverts, who bask in the limelight of attention, energised by people around them. At the other end of the spectrum is the introvert, preferring very much to be by himself in a corner with a cup of coffee in hand, hoping nobody will strike up a conversation with him.
The truth is that you do not have to pretend to be extroverted to succeed at professional networking. You do not have to pretend to like the company of someone who has been blabbering for more than 5 minutes about how good his business is doing. You do not have to feel stressed about making small talk with others when you attend a networking session.
Practical networking tips for introverts
Here, I am going to share 3 easy tips to help you survive and succeed in your next business networking session:
Prepare your 30-second elevator pitch
One of the biggest stressors from business networking comes from being poorly prepared. Do not be caught in a situation where you get so anxious about making a first impression that you end up fumbling for words when introducing yourself.
Take some time before the meeting and think about how you would like others to perceive you. My best advice is to write short and simple sentences about your role in your company, and what the company does. For example, “I am John Tan, the Director of ABC Company and we provide IT solutions to SMEs.”
Rehearse this in front of the mirror as often as you like. You can also run this by a trusted co-worker for constructive feedback.
Now, even when you walk into the room and start to feel the jitters, you would already have a well-rehearsed script in mind to help you get started.
Ask sincere questions about the other person
One of the things that introverts are weak at is making small talk. They dislike this because it can feel patronising and they would much rather get straight to the point. You do not have to stress yourself over questions to ask, such as talking about the weather or about some recent news headline (unless, of course it is of genuine interest to you). Instead, you may want to cut to the chase and ask them about themselves. Some suggestions:
- How long have you been in this business/industry?
- What sort of business referrals are you looking for?
- What is the best or most challenging part of your job? Remember, you can be yourself. Ask questions that will help you get to know the other person better, and be genuine about it! Sincerity can be felt at the onset.
Politely excuse yourself if you don’t want to remain in the conversation
Most of us do not like to be rude and interrupt someone talking. Simply remind yourself that you are at the event for a purpose – to seek our new opportunities and establish mutually beneficial business relationships. You are definitely not there to entertain others.
If you find yourself getting bored, or do not seem to have any interest in what the other party is saying, thank him for sharing. Tell him that you are keen on meeting others in the room.
Enjoy Stress-Free Networking
Business networking allows you to explore new opportunities with people you meet, leverage on one another and even build business partnerships to propel forward. Contrary to popular belief, you can be an introvert and still use business networking as a platform to stay ahead in your career and business.
Fellow introverts, do bear in mind that you do not have to fake it during a networking session. You deserve the right to enjoy connecting with people.
Note: This article was first published in The Straits Times 4 October 2014