Networking can be painful for both introverts and extraverts. Yes, both. For some reason, introverts believe that they are the only ones who are uncomfortable in networking situations. What you may not realize is that extraverts may be just doing a better job of covering up their anxiety.
The terms introvert and extravert (note: it is not extrovert) come from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The definition of introvert and extravert is probably different from what you think because it has to do with where you get your energy – not at how socially astute you are.
Extraverts have a preference for drawing energy from the outside world of people, activities and things. If you are an extravert, here are some of the things you might do: being talkative, getting involved with people, and acting on something before thinking about it or thriving on social interactions.
As an introvert, your preference is to draw energy from your internal world of ideas, emotions and impressions. Introverts prefer reflection, working with ideas, thinking before you do something and gravitating toward one-on-one private discussions.
Neither of these preferences present deal breakers for networking, it is simply a matter of creating the right type of environment for you to be comfortable in socially.
Introverts will often tell me that they will not go to a networking event because there are too many people. That may be true; however, even extraverts may become overwhelmed walking into a large convention with thousands of people.
Here is the deal breaker: Social skills
If you have poor social skills it won’t matter if you are an introvert or extravert. Social skills provide the framework for making your preferences work in social situations.
Is it possible that extraverts have better social skills? Possibly – but only because they are more likely to put themselves into situations where they can experience and learn about social skills. Extraverts are not naturally gifted in the social skills arena; they simply become more competent through experience.
Introverts who develop competency in social skills are better able to bridge the gap between their preferences and networking. Let’s take this example of where an introvert finds a way to successfully network.
As an introvert, it is easy to become overwhelmed at a large networking event. A good social skills technique is to break networking down into small, more manageable steps such as:
- Walk in with a partner if you are petrified going to an event alone. The buddy system is a viable way to feel more confident.
- Instead of tackling the whole room, find a corner and talk with someone else who is alone. Once you gain your confidence, you can move onto another individual or small group.
- Set realistic goals for how many people you want to meet. For the introvert, it might mean meeting one or two people and getting to know them well.
Once you have accomplished your goal, it is OK to leave the networking event.
There is a lot of pressure “to work the room”, but that would be too stressful. Always leave a networking event when you are feeling good about yourself. Who wants to return to something painful?
Some of the steps I shared with you in this example may still make you feel anxious. If so, break the steps down even further. Once you master a step move on to the next one.