Networking is a great way to gather new contacts and gain great connections and working relationships to grow your business or career. It involves meeting and speaking with people and attending events— and how you verbally portray your business or professional values, aims and ideals are key ingredients for networking success.
However, while many of us are comfortable with networking, others may find it a bit more challenging. For shy or introverted women, networking may seem more difficult, which could discourage them from entertaining the idea of investing their time in networking.
We believe in networking’s potential and ability to help business and career women. Even if you’re not really into meeting and speaking with different people, you can still achieve networking success. So, don’t make excuses of why you don’t want to network; here are several ways to help you get started.
Practice Makes Perfect Sense
As with many things in life, practice goes a long way. For networking, you can practice by speaking in front of a mirror or on video. Doing so has two benefits. First, you’ll be able to remember the pitch you need to say and, second, since you’re already treating your reflection as another person, you’ll grow a bit more comfortable when you’re already speaking with someone. The mirror or video will also show you if you have expressions, mannerisms, or actions (specifically the distracting ones) that you need to avoid doing when networking.
If a mirror or video isn’t enough, try practicing in front of a friend, and let him or her assess your performance and pinpoint things you could improve on. Your friend can also help you further by coming up with their own dialogue to better simulate a networking conversation.
Look for an ‘Introvert-in-Arms’
And, in a world where an estimated 50% of individuals are introverts, you’re likely to cross eyes with someone across the networking venue who is also an introvert. Once you know someone is also an introvert, you might want to ‘team up’ with that person. This allows you to feel less anxious—being with someone who understands being an introvert helps you get out of your shell easier. And, once you begin conversations, you’ll grow more comfortable in terms of talking with other people in the event as well.
Buddying up with another introvert during the networking process has other benefits such as having shared networks and added support. If you can’t bring a friend or colleague with you, look around the room for someone else who is also looking around for a friendly face. Approach them and talk. Then work the room together!
Set ONE Goal, and Meet It
Setting goals works in life. So why not use it for the purposes of networking?
For goals to be successful, they must be specific, clear and they must be written down. Research shows that writing down a specific goal is an excellent motivator. So, if you’re demotivated to network because you’re not good at meeting or speaking with different people, write down what you want to achieve to help put yourself in a better, more positive mindset.
For introverts, specificity, clarity, and focus on outcomes can help reduce the overwhelming feeling brought about by the idea of networking. In essence, setting just one goal for your networking event can help you, the career- or business-minded introverted woman that you are, focus on accomplishing something that matters.
Another way to keep the sanity and the clarity going as an introvert in a networking event is to keep organised records. This is not only for the purposes of following up but also to take stock of what events you’ve been to, where to go next and the goal(s) you achieved.
Being organised also helps you keep your composure—organisation helps the frazzled, anxious, or overwhelmed brain have a sense of order. Awareness and knowledge often help offset the sensation that you’re doing a futile and repetitive task—which is what so many introverts may feel tackling networking events.
Create a database, or use your CRM, which will help you review who you’ve met, what they’ve discussed with you, new ideas you gained as a result of the conversations and any lessons learned. This way, you’ll feel you’re getting results, helping you feel more motivated about (and not forced into) participating in the next networking event.
Preparation is Key
Planning for a networking event entails some work, but it can also make things much easier, especially if you’re an introvert.
Preparing helps you be at ease knowing that you didn’t come unprepared. It also puts things in perspective in terms of what you should do and what you want to achieve. Plan ahead and think of good questions that will help you start a conversation. A good formula is FORD: Family, Organisation, Recreation and Did I get and give value to that conversation?
You can also prepare a short, basic introduction that you’d be comfortable telling others in relation to networking. This helps you leave a good impression while saving you from having to think about what to say upon meeting another person ie prepare your elevator pitch.
Networking is also for Introverts
Meeting new people is at the heart of successful networking. However, this may also make it seem like it’s not for the introverted, and that shouldn’t be the case. The truth is, networking is for both the shy and the outgoing, the introverted and the extroverted.
Introverts may need a bit more practice or work but that doesn’t mean they won’t gain success from it. Take it from people in high-level positions—they know the value of networking and have built great professional connections over the years. In fact, this study suggests that introverts are more likely to become CEOs, which means that they truly have the capacity and potential to gain networking success.
If you need further guidance in networking, we at Behind Closed Doors are here for you. We believe in networking and how it can help elevate the business and professional careers of women and are more than willing to help make it work wonders for you. We are a leading organisation of business women and, through networking, peer mentoring, events, and other resources, we help each other attain greater levels of professional success through opening doors to new opportunities. Contact us today to know more, we’re always ready to listen and support you.
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