Ever wish there was an introvert’s guide to networking? Particularly for you as a leader?
I will be the first to admit that throughout my career networking has not been amongst my favorite things.
It could be because I am deeply introverted.
Or perhaps it’s because I get bored very easily with small talk.
Or maybe it’s because I’ve always believed high quality work should be the only reason people get rewarded.
Ultimately, the reason for my (and probably your) dislike of networking doesn’t really matter. Because REAL TALK – the benefits of networking can be immeasurable.
For your personal life.
And most certainly in your professional life.
Luckily professional networking gets easier over time with practice.
The more you practice, the more skilled you can become.
The key is to find the vehicle of networking that works best for you. That get you results but doesn’t make you completely miserable😉
Before we go any further, let’s talk about what professional networking is and why it is important.
What is Professional Networking?
Networking is when you build relationships with other professionals to support your career. And who you can support in return.
(That’s right. The most effective networking relationships are usually a two-way street.)
Networking is also an investment, similar to earning a degree or certification.
You invest your time and energy nurturing your network and you can learn new information and skills.
In some cases you will reap the benefits immediately.
And in other cases, the payoff is more long term.
Why Is Networking Important?
Networking is important because successful leadership careers are not singularly built.
In other words, even though you are responsible for your own career, the connections you make throughout your journey will definitely influence your path, experiences, and opportunities
Introvert’s Guide to Networking Realisms & Tips
In my 25+ year career, I’ve learned a few things about networking. Some “realisms” and a few tips to guide your networking efforts as an introverted leader. And that could benefit you as you continue your leadership career.
Let’s start with the realisms.
- You can definitely be successful without networking. But you can achieve even greater success with it.
- Networking can not only help you gain access to new opportunities. Used wisely, the skill can also help you increase your knowledge, improve how you work, and generally make your professional life a lot easier.
- Networking is about connecting with others. But not everyone you want to connect with, will have the time to connect with you. And that’s ok. It’s important to remember that many different paths can lead to the same destination.
- Notice the word “work” in the middle of networking. This emphasizes that networking takes effort. It’s not supposed to be all fun and games. So, if you run into a few challenges along the way, don’t be easily discouraged.
- Everyone can benefit from networking. Whether you are a leader in a corporation, the nonprofit sector, a small business, or are in school. Networking with peers, those more advanced in their careers, customers, vendors, and others can help further your goals.
Ok now, let’s cover a few tips.
1.Begin networking now.
Believe it or now, the best time to start your professional networking journey is when you do not want or need anything. Avoid waiting to reach out until you are ready to look for a job or you need help with a business problem. Most attuned professionals have a B.S. meter (I’m sure you do too!) – and people will likely see you coming a mile away under those circumstances.
Don’t make a list of 15-20 people you want to network with right out of the gate. As an introvert, it would take too much mental and emotional energy to tackle such a broad goal. Instead, select 1-2 meaningful networking prospects and start there. After you establish those contacts, you can gradually expand your network.
3.Be clear about your end goal.
Be deliberate about who you network with. Don’t seek to network with someone simply because they have an important title or are well known. Make sure you are clear on both how you might be able to support them and what they could offer you. Since networking is such an investment, being planful will help you avoid wasting time and energy.
4.Lead with your strengths.
You already know what you are really good at so figure out how you can leverage your existing strengths when you network. For example, if you are an excellent writer, show off those skills in a quick introductory email. Or if you are a deep subject matter expert, figure out how to offer up some of that knowledge to your networking prospects.
5.Use all available platforms.
Gone are the days where networking only happens at in-person conferences and events. Keen networkers are always looking for networking opportunities and take action across various forums. You can open professional doors for yourself via social media platforms, during online meetings, internal to your organization as well as external, at social gatherings, etc. I’ve expanded my professional network in some unlikely places such as on the subway, in line at the grocery store, and at my nephew’s soccer practice.