As an introvert, networking can often feel like a game you can’t win.
Meeting strangers, making small talk, and exchanging business cards might be your worst nightmare. Honestly, you’d rather just stay home than attend a networking event.
Thankfully, networking is not an inherently extroverted activity. On the contrary - introverts are just as capable of networking; all they need is a bit more practice.
So in this article, we’ll give you a ton of networking tips that you can use as an introvert, as well as various networking resources to get you started.
So let’s dive right in!
9 Networking Tips for Introverts
The first step if you’re networking as an introvert is to plan ahead of time for a networking event.
Start by choosing the right one for you. Read up on the events you’re thinking of attending - are they big-scale conferences or smaller, industry-specific gatherings?
Once you’ve gotten to know the event you’re going to, arm yourself with conversation starters. Here are some examples of what they can include:
- What brought you to this event?
- I overheard a bit of your conversation, would you mind if I join? It sounds interesting!
- How did you become interested in X?
- Could you tell me more about X?
Preparing in advance is a good opportunity to improve your communication skills. And, if you’re not entirely confident about them, remember - any skill can be learned with some commitment.
#2. Choose the right approach
Networking isn’t a one-size-fits-all ordeal. And the way to get really good at networking as an introvert is to find the right approach that lets you play your strengths.
Whether that means smaller venues, industry-specific events or one-on-one conversations is up to you. Alternatively, you might find out that online networking is better for you than traditional, face-to-face networking. According to a Forbes study, it’s more comfortable, less costly, and includes less peer pressure.
So, put yourself out there, try different things, and see where they take you! Your approach to networking as an introvert is something that should be sustainable for you.
To get the most out of networking, you should always try and make it as enjoyable for yourself as possible. Don’t stress too much, and try to find the fun side in it.
#3. Don’t push yourself
Trying to be something you’re not, rarely works well so whatever you do, don’t try to be an extroverted social butterfly.
As an introvert, a few meaningful connections will do you a lot better in the long run than dozens of superficial ones. Set a goal to expand your network within reason - two or three people are enough, as long as they’re the right connections for you.
There’s no point in pushing yourself to talk to twenty or thirty people, especially if those interactions come off as forced and unnatural.
Sticking to a smaller number of people will allow you to have more meaningful conversations, too. You won’t tire yourself out as much, and you won’t get overwhelmed trying to keep up with everyone.
#4. Recharge when you need it
There’s no shame in taking a break, especially if it will help you network better in the long run.
So, leave the room and take some time to yourself before heading back and networking if you need to. For example, don’t let conversations you’re bored of drag on for too long or stand around in awkward silences. Politely excuse yourself, thank people for their time and input and move on. Refresh yourself a little and get back to networking and meeting new contacts.
Try to keep breaks brief though - you can recharge fully in the comfort of your home when the event is over.
#5. Bring a friend
Are you worried you’re too socially awkward and can’t break the ice? Attend with a friend!
Ask your friend to introduce you to someone or join in their conversations with potential contacts. Having a friendly presence around can be super helpful if you’re an introvert who struggles in social settings.
Going to a networking event with a friendly face on your side can make networking as an introvert a lot easier. Not to mention, your friends can do a much better job at helping you get out of your head and communicate than even you can.
#6. Make yourself approachable
You can make yourself approachable in many ways, one of the most important being putting your phone away.
Don’t stick to the gloomy corner checking your emails or scrolling social media or you run the risk of nobody approaching you. Look around, be attentive, and curious! Walk the rounds, maybe get a refreshment if they’re available, and survey the people around you - with a smile on your face, optimally.
This makes it likelier that someone will approach you and break the ice (so you won’t have to). If you look like you can’t wait to leave or that your phone is more interesting than the room, it’s unlikely someone’s going to be interested in networking with you.
#7. Practice active listening
If you’re not talkative, which is admittedly the first part of networking, then you can still stick to your element as an introvert: listening! As the type who’s more comfortable listening than talking, now is the time to be yourself.
After all, everyone wants to feel heard. Letting people talk about what interests them can make a huge difference. So, listen attentively, nod, ask questions when appropriate, and be curious.
A quiet and patient approach could make others remember you better than a loud and boisterous presence.
#8. Be genuine
A lot of introverts feel like networking is disingenuous…But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The trick here is only to approach people you have a genuine interest in. The fact that that interest is professional doesn’t make it superficial. The goal of networking is to build meaningful, mutually-beneficial relationships, even in the professional sense.
So, don’t force yourself to talk to people you dislike or who work in fields that bore you. Networking can be a fun experience if you interact with people who inspire you, motivate you, and interest you, so don’t think of it as a chore.
The most important step after a networking event is to follow up with the people you met. Networking is all about cultivating relationships with like-minded people and simply meeting them is only the start of that relationship.
As such, spare some time to send them an email or private message a couple of days after the event. In your follow-up networking email, thank the person for the inspiring or meaningful lovely conversation and say you’d love to hear from them again. Make plans to expand on what you discussed together by inviting them for coffee or any other activity.
Just make sure you suggest doing something that’s comfortable for both of you. Networking over lunch, for example, might be much more suitable than, say, attending another networking event together.
Always try to personalize your follow-up message by adding a detail or something specific you remember from networking with the receiver. For example, you can nod back to an interesting topic you talked about or offer to expand on something you’ve said. You got this!
5 Networking Resources for Introverts
There’s a multitude of networking resources you can use to get great at it. And in the digital age, it’s never been easier to find them!
Here are our top picks:
- How to Network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the biggest networking platform online and for good reason. Setting up a profile lets other like-minded professionals contact you and recruiters find you, while you can look for jobs and stay in touch with your network with ease.
- Networking Tips. Check out these 9 networking tips to apply in your daily life and grow your personal and professional network.
- Networking Email Subject Lines. Choose among 65 tried-and-tested networking email subject lines to make sure your networking email gets opened next time you send it.
- Networking Benefits. These are the top 12 networking benefits along with tips on how to take advantage of them, so dive right in.
- Networking Skills. These are the 12 top networking skills to have in 2023 to take your networking to the next level.
FAQ About Networking As an Introvert
If you still have some questions about networking as an introvert, this section will answer them:
1. Why is Networking Hard for Introverts?
Networking for introverts is challenging because it requires moving out of your comfort zone.
Specifically, many introverts hold back from expanding their networks by that feeling of awkwardness or discomfort when they have to interact with people they don’t know.
But networking requires skills that can be taught and learned, which means anyone can master networking - even introverts.
2. What Are the Best Careers for Introverts?
There are plenty of jobs for introverts that won’t drain you, all you need to do is research and pick something that you actually enjoy. Take a look and find a position that allows you a nice, quiet environment to thrive.
Some of the most popular career choices are in writing, editing, and IT. Plenty of jobs offer limited social interaction and remote work opportunities, for a start.
3. What Are Some of the Best Networking Tips for Introverts?
Start by finding an approach that works for you - one-on-one networking meetings, small-scale events, or online networking, it’s up to you. Make sure you have a plan so you can use your professional goals and the nature of the networking event as focal points in a conversation.
And, cliche as it sounds, be yourself: listen, be genuine, and do your best to have fun. Networking as an introvert doesn’t have to be a chore - seek out those that pique your curiosity or inspire you, and you’ll be immersed in the process in no time.
At this point, you know that introverts can rock the networking game as well as any extroverts. You know the best tips to help you on your networking journey.
We’ll summarize some here just in case:
- There’s nothing inherently extroverted about networking and preparation that will take you farther than the ease with small talk.
- Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not - listen more than you talk, take breaks to recharge from socializing, and aim for quality of conversations, not quantity.
- Keep in touch with your network at your own pace and in ways that are comfortable to you. One-on-one conversations and email threads are perfect for this.
- There are plenty of opportunities for introverts to develop their careers and thrive in environments that meet their solitary needs.