Five Easy Networking Steps for Shy People

by MSM Coaching on 4th February 2013

If you're a shy person, attending a networking event could feel like one of your worst nightmares coming true. For networking to work for you, you need to do what every reserved person hates most: make conversation with people you don't know.

Unlike extroverts, you aren't energised by contact with others. You prefer being alone. And the idea of getting in touch with complete strangers makes you want to run away.

About 25% of us are introverted types who prefer the company of our own ideas and thoughts and who recharge by being alone. But this behaviour is the antithesis of what's needed to conduct effective networking. A better alternative may be to develop unthreatening networking techniques, starting by understanding the true meaning and process of networking.

Dispel the myths

Many networkers incorrectly view the task of networking as a frenzied quest to collect as many business cards as possible and do a sales pitch to everyone they meet. No wonder introverts are afraid to network (so are the rest of us when we meet these people). This definition would exhaust any sane person!

Networking is about using shared interests to develop and maintain mutually beneficial relationships. When done correctly, networking is a lifelong process that you should do frequently, if not daily. It's as natural as eating and sleeping. Whenever you talk with others and ask their opinions to make an informed decision -- even if it's just to find a good restaurant, film or electrician -- you're networking.

Of course, this definition raises the red flag for many shy people. But you can create a strategy that works for you by understanding your personality type and your limitations.

For instance, some people are more reserved than others, and some introverts are successful in fields that normally attract extroverts. By learning who you are, you'll be more open and approachable.

Five Easy Steps

Networking doesn't mean making thousands of contacts. Instead, think about ways to discuss mutually interesting subjects with a few key people.

The following steps can help reserved professionals become more effective networkers:

  1. Understand the aspects of networking that bother you most and deal with them.
    If you're scared of meeting people, try practicing with trusted friends. Tell them about your interests, training and abilities. Or, if you're worried about not knowing what to say, role-play your meetings until you feel confident.
  2. Create a structured plan and stick to it.
    Set goals and be disciplined about achieving them.
  3. Make follow-up calls when your energy is highest.
    If you know that you're more upbeat mid morning, make your phone calls then and use the afternoon for other tasks.
  4. Know what you are going to say when calling.
    Many introverts have difficulty making small talk. By learning about your contacts and their companies, you can plan your conversations and make them more meaningful.
  5. Take time out to recharge.
    Plan your schedule so that you have periods of solitude that allow you to recharge. For instance, don't schedule a full day's activities if you plan to network at an evening event.

While you don't have to change yourself, you will need to learn extroverted skills and behaviours to become a more effective networker. The more you do it, the more your appreciation for networking may grow. And when you start seeing and receiving the benefits, your appetite for it may grow.

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