Most experts on networking agree it’s a two-way street—a way to build relationships rather than foisting yourself, your business cards, and your wares on everyone who crosses your path. Despite that, lurking in our collective unconsciousness is the notion that networking is about using people and getting used. Following that logic, if you’re an introvert—or someone who is more stoked by solo activities than social activities, why would you want to dive into a mosh pit of slick people shaking down one another for leads when you could stay home and read a book?

“By nature, I am a reserved person and I lack the gift of the gab,” says Vinay Kumar, who just wrote a guest column titled “Networking for Introverts” for the Washington Post. “I don't know much about sports and I am not into small talk. Yet being in business development, networking is part of my job.” Check out the four simple networking steps Kumar offers in his story. I’ll add some more tips to help introverts build their professional networks:

  1. Use your social energy wisely. Determine how many hours (or minutes!) a week you can devote to networking without draining yourself. Pick your activities thoughtfully—as if you were curating paintings for your favorite museum.
  2. Show your face. No need to stay at conferences all day and cocktail parties all night. Go about your business, have your conversations, and then go home. Extroverts can do it their way.
  3. Prepare a few opening lines. My favorite is the simplest: “Hello, my name is Nancy.” What next? Arrive at social events with a few topics of conversation up your sleeve. This will help prevent your introvert’s brain from freezing up during the first few moments of conversation with new acquaintances.
  4. Be generous with information, ideas, and introductions. Position yourself as a valued expert on topics you’re passionate about as well as a generous connector. 
  5. Ask for advice and other kinds of assistance. People in your professional network may not know what you're looking for unless you tell them.
  6. Volunteer to help out at events. Whether you’re best as a technical problem solver or a meeter-greeter, having a specific task to do can make it easier to navigate social events.
  7. Co-host events where you can connect with people who share your passions. 

  8. Take stock of who you know

    and who you want to meet to build up your professional network—online and in person.
  9. Use social networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter if you enjoy making connections and building a community by tapping on your keyboard—an activity many introverts enjoy because it enables us to think before we express ourselves.

For more tips and insights to make your networking efforts easier—and some fun stories too—check out my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®

© Copyright 2013 Nancy Ancowitz

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