For introverts, networking can seem quite daunting. It involves being in a noisy room full of strangers, with an expectation to engage in constant small talk. That’s pretty much a nightmare scenario for many introverts out there.
Stefan Thomas, author of Networking for Dummies, says:
“Introverts can find networking intimidating because of all the louder extroverts in the room trying to sell themselves.”
But this doesn’t mean that introverts are incapable of building business contacts. It just means that introverts have to harness the distinct qualities of their personality type in order to make a good impression.
Susan Cain, author of the best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, argues that the business world is set up for extroverts. And networking is a perfect example of this.
Contrary to common misconceptions, introverts aren't inherently shy, awkward or socially anxious. Introverts are simply less drawn to highly stimulating environments than extroverts. A networking event will drain the energy reserves of an introvert faster than it will do for an extrovert. An introvert will feel ill at ease in this kind of situation, whereas an extrovert will thrive.
However, since networking is often a crucial part of developing your career and finding work that is truly rewarding, introverts need to find ways to navigate the world of networking. Luckily, if you embrace your introversion, you can actually stand out from the extroverts in the room.
One quality that potential employers and business partners really appreciate is attentive listening. Although extroverts may think that their talkativeness and ability to command and dominate a conversation will put them in a favourable light, it may end up doing the exact opposite.
Employers value self-confidence, but they also want to work with people who can show a genuine interest in their point of view, and who are receptive to their ideas.
So while introverts may not be as loud and assertive as their extroverted counterparts, they can certainly impress others with their listening skills.
Thinking before speaking
Another quality that introverts possess is thinking before speaking. Introverts take their time before vocalising their thoughts. They want their words to count. So they express themselves as best they can with the energy reserves they are working with.
Extroverts, on the other hand, can be fast talkers and give spiels about why they would be great people to work with.
But the quiet and deliberating nature of introverts does not mean that they can’t stand out from the crowd. In fact, a carefully considered answer to a question, or a concise statement about oneself, can be impactful and memorable. The introverted way of communicating is certainly desirable for employers.
If you know that you're strongly introverted, then you might not be able to ‘fake it’ and put on an extroverted persona for an evening. If you try to talk to as many people as possible, you will burn yourself out quickly, and be itching to leave.
Introverts tend to dislike shallow conversations. They instead prefer to gravitate towards deeper and more meaningful topics of discussion. This preference could result in making a good impression with a few attendees, rather than just making an impression with everyone in the room.
As is often the case, quality is far better for your career prospects than quantity.
Keep in mind that introverts make up 30-50% of the population. This means that when you're networking you will probably cross paths with a potential employer who is a fellow introvert. Which will make it easy to have quiet, one-on-one and in-depth conversations about mutual interests and potential business opportunities.
Networking doesn't have to be as uncomfortable as you're imagining it is. Don't underestimate the benefits and advantages of selling yourself quietly.