It may be surprising to some people that a self-described introvert like me would enjoy networking. “You must be lying. You’re not a true introvert!” you might say.
Let me tell you.
I get nervous for coffee dates with friends. Movie night by myself sounds like heaven. After a social period of time, I need to “recharge” with at least that much time by myself. The more people at a party, the higher my anxiety. Ice breaker activities make me cringe. At family get-togethers, I will go off by myself to escape the madness. I don’t like being a hostess, because my home is my safe haven. “What if I decided I’m done with being around people but they won’t leave???”
Does this sound familiar to any other introverts?
So how is it that I can say that I enjoy networking?
To make it simple- it’s all about 1-on-1 interactions.
And I think I can speak for most introverts when I say that 1-on-1 is much less stressful than groups.
With this post, I would like to show you how networking as an introvert (that is, through 1-on-1 interactions) can actually be a better alternative to events.
I know that even 1-on-1 interactions can be scary, especially with someone you haven’t met before. But I believe that the following reasons for trying 1-on-1 networking can be an encouragement to get out that coffee mug! For introverts AND extroverts!
For background on how I go about networking, please read my previous post Using Human Skills, Not Web Skills, to Land a Job.
5 reasons Why 1-on-1 networking is a great idea:
1. 1-on-1 interactions can be an even playing field.
At a party or event, sub-groups form, and if you aren’t in a group it can feel very uncomfortable and isolating. People have such a strong need for belonging that even those in a group may not want to jeopardize their belonging to include you. It’s not always malicious, just human.
It’s like middle school all over again!
Setting up a meeting with someone at a coffee shop is neutral ground (as opposed to meeting them at their office). Neither of you feel that it’s your territory. And that knowledge can actually put both of you at ease.
2. You aren’t competing for time in the conversation.
You are face to face (or on the phone) with someone who agreed to talk with YOU! It’s highly likely that neither of you wants it to be one-sided. No exclusion here!
3. You can come prepared.
Since you have the luxury of only meeting with 1 person, you can read up on them beforehand and be prepared with questions specific to their experience. You can read their LinkedIn profile, their Facebook profile, or whatever you have access to depending on how you got connected.
Even if you just have an email introduction to go off of, you probably have some idea of what this person does.
Before every phone call or coffee meeting, I come up with questions in advance. It puts me at ease, it shows that person that I truly care about their time investment, and it usually results in a pretty darn satisfying conversation.
It’s a win-win-win!
4. That person is much more likely to remember you in the future.
This one may seem rather obvious, but I think it’s worth noting. If you meet 10 new people at a party or event, speaking to each for only a few minutes at a time, it’s going to be hard to keep them all straight.
Furthermore, you may not feel connected enough to any of those people to feel like reaching out and asking for help. And they might not be comfortable in making an introduction to their boss or friend if they only spoke with you briefly.
But let’s contrast this with a 1-on-1 conversation over the phone that was 40 min to 1 hour? Or an equally lengthy coffee meeting?
I can imagine that both of you would leave that conversation feeling comfortable enough to help each other out should one need it. And it’s extremely unlikely that this person would be relegated to the LinkedIn archives of “How do I know this person?”
5. You develop deeper relationships.
It’s not impossible to have a somewhat lengthy and meaningful conversation with someone at a party or event, but I would say it is much more rare. It’s a distracting environment, and usually people want to talk to more than just 1 person.
When you meet or even have a phone call with 1 person, you can cover much more ground without concern over time or missing out on other people. There ARE NO OTHER people. It’s just you and them.
I can speak from several examples in my life where I had a single phone call with someone whom I had never met before. I came prepared with very specific questions, and we had a great conversation. So much so that we still keep in touch!
THIS is why we network. To develop relationships. THIS is why it’s fun.
It’s give and take, and it’s beautiful!
What do you think?
Most people agree that extroversion/introversion is a spectrum, and no one is 100% one or the other. And most often it is situational.
In full disclosure, people who know me very well are still surprised to hear that I consider myself an introvert. When I’m around a smaller group of people that I know well, I can be quite outgoing.
I guess you could say I’m an extroverted introvert.
But regardless of whether we enjoy large groups or not, I believe that 1-on-1 networking can more effective than large networking events.
For those of you that are more introverted, I would be happy to hear feedback! What are your struggles with networking?