Yes, Introverts Can Network!

Date posted: March 9, 2009  
Filed under: Networking

So, no job. Or you are scared to death that next week – no job.. If you are an introvert, the pressure may be more intensified, than for others, since the fear of networking is almost can be as frightening as job loss. Well, maybe not quite as scary as having no job, no but scary enough to render some of you ineffective and, perhaps immobile.

If you are like 25% of the population that is NOT energized by lots of contact with people, prefer the comfort of your own internal ideas and thoughts, and crave times to be alone for recharging your energy, you may be an introvert. You may also want to consider new ways to increase your skill base and appetite for becoming a more effective networker. The reason is that about 75% of all positions filled in business are based on contacts and networking. If it has been distasteful to you all these years, you are going to be faced with a major challenge and your job search make take much longer than needed.

Unfortunately, for many, networking is often incorrectly seen as a flurried-and-frenzied-sort-of-external-activity-requiring-an-enormous-amounts-of-energy-and-action-to-collect-a-zillion-names-and-contacts-for-the-purpose-of-getting-a-job . Whew! No wonder an introvert is scared. That definition alone would exhaust any sane introvert and even some extroverts!. “Networking makes me feel like I am begging for a job,” confesses a Senior Vice President of Human Resources in the chemicals industry in New Jersey.

The good news is, that the definition is wrong. Networking is not about ‘begging’ for a job or getting a job. It is the making and maintaining of human relationships, based on shared and similar interests for mutual benefit. It is NOT an end in itself, but a lifelong, never ending, ever-developing process that should be taking place every week, if not every day of your life. And, most important of all, it is a natural process. It’s also putting pieces together. Ferreting out the needs of others so you, as a walking, breathing, living solution can help those with needs and nightmares; looking for someone t o help their company.

We really network all the time. Take social networking for example, an introvert’s dream come true, no? And in other realms, we don’t realize that we are networking when we check out where and what the best deal is for a vacation, or what town to move to, or where to place our money. That’s networking as well. Networking is researching something that you care about, that’s important in some way, sharing ideas, opinions, (yours and theirs) so that you can ultimately make an informed decision and offer something back to someone else.

The key steps for becoming a more effective networker, are

First, become aware of what parts of networking bother you the most and deal with those items first. For example, if meeting people scares the daylights out of you, it may be because you are afraid of exposure. Although I must say that with all the transparency of FaceBook, LinkedIn etc., you need to realize that you are already networking and visible. But, good networking is really much more about the other person. Networking should be about finding out about others worries and anxieties ( think needs) , not yours.

Set up and discipline yourself to plan ahead, push, make the calls. Some suggest 15 to 20 calls a day. Oh, not for an introvert. You are not Hercules. Set up a goal of emailing or calling five a day. Or better yet, call three people you haven’t spoken with in 3 months. That’s a great way of not starting old cold!

Make calls when your energy is UP and have a script you can work from. No one will see the script, but it may give you a sense of security.

Try to plan your calls, so that you feel in charge and control of yourself. . Introverts are planful thinkers and speakers. They also are quite genuine, wanting to help others as well. Introverts have a hard time making small talk. Make the talk meaningful. Take charge.

Don’t make plans that will drain you. Introverts need down time and time alone. If you know that you have a full day’s worth of work, don’t think that you can function your best at a big networking meeting that night.

There are degrees of “introversion” and they vary in intensity as compared with others. There are highly successful introverts in all kinds of fields. “Some introverts are actually great sales people because all sales are not the same”. For example, a female sales representative from Baxter International said that she didn’t think that she was the ‘typical sales type,’ but she brought in the sales. Her numbers were always beyond quota; her style; introverted. Her answer to how she was so successful? “I just have relationships with people. They trust me. I tell them the truth. I make sales. I take my time, I listen to what they want and I try to service them”.

One of the best features about introverts is that they usually make very good listeners and think about what they see and what they hear. This is a critical aspect about networking and fostering good relationships. Introverts are ahead of extroverts on that score.

An account representative ,in the insurance software design industry , has some personal success hints for introverts, like herself. “I have always kept in sporadic contact with people . Since I have traveled all over the world, my contact has been by letter, for the most part. I think that way of staying in contact is effective. And I keep it up with a little note, clipping or something just to stay in contact. ”

Next, she has learned to accept her introversion and doesn’t try to become an extrovert. “People don’t see me jabbering away and I have been perceived as aloof, and I guess I have learned to speak up a bit more, so that people can get to know me better.” Smiling, she adds, “If introverts tried to become extroverts, space would have to be shared and that could present quite a problem.”

She adds, “You have to just get out there and do it” I am more an observer and like to see what is going on, but if I feel strongly about something, I will express it. “ Introverts need to connect to their passion about something.

Introverts are people whose preferred style of dealing with the world and work is from a introspection rather than gregarious perspective. Networking then, becomes a challenge from the inside as well as the outside forces of the circumstances. What can help an introvert get past the panic is connecting to their passion and their particular brand, which can one of the same.

What is your passion? What field, industry, product, service or cause excites you? What kinds of news articles captivate your attention, time after time?. Ask yourself what really turns you on, fires you up? What currently in the marketplace seems exciting, fascinating and compelling? When you hook into that internal caring, love, interest, passion, some of your networking fears may abate., because you then will be talking with others from a personal place of interest and caring instead of from an artificial one.

“Men spend their lives in the service of their passions, instead of employing their passion in the service of their life,” British essayist, Steele once wrote Once you are connected to your passion, your focus and energy may replace fear and paralysis.

Remember, you don’t have to network with thousands of people, ever. You can write good letters, and meet strategically with key people about mutually interesting subjects. You can go to networking meetings. I run one for ExecuNet every month and check it out on www.execunet.com. What is wonderful about it is that it is facilitated by me, so you don’t have to work the room but wind up meeting some pretty talented folks.

If you view networking as a great personal research project that really and truly interests you then it will become easier to collect the critical information of data and ideas for the most important company you know, “ ME, INC.” Your future.

Another helpful suggestion is to help in your organizations or community for higher visibility. If you have financial skills, volunteer as a treasurer. That way you can show your skills, your value, be an active visible member while still maintaining your style and personality as an introvert. People may begin to “notice” you in a very natural way and new relationships can be formed and nurtured on mutual interest and connections. It can bring you visibility and contact with others without changing who you are and how you behave. You can be glorious you and stay true to yourself, while others learn your value.

One creative introvert networking story concerns a downsized Vice President of a Finance, of an Aerospace company, who decided that networking was not for him. Too scary. Too intense. But he needed to get earn money, quickly, so he took a temporary job as a limousine driver whose passengers were executives traveling to and from the local airports. He used that time to get to know his passengers. The more traffic tie ups, the more time he had with them. It was natural and easy because he only had to deal with one person at a time, much preferred by most introverts, and it didn’t feel false, or trivial. He was interested in them and, yes, interested in finding opinions and ideas about the shrinking defense industry.

After three months of driving and meeting lots of people( one at a time) , he connected with his new boss, through making the “limo connections”, and got himself a new position in an engineering firm on Long Island, without becoming an extrovert

Learning new definitions and ways of thinking about networking needs to be coupled with learning new behavioral skills to enhance your networking effectiveness. This doesn’t mean that you change your personality. It means adding to your repertoire. You need also learn how you are perceived so that you can ensure each personal connection creates trust and genuine rapport with others. Good eye contact can help that happen.

Introverts have a tendency to not make great eye contact and it often makes the other person feel a bit cut off. Not a great way to build rapport. You may want to work on that, or do this. Look at the bridge of a person’s nose, just where the eyebrows meet and it will feel like you are making eye contact and you will feel safer.

Introverts may or may not be shy but they are generally are more quiet individuals who prefer to spend as much time as possible in the company of their own thoughts and ideas, even when among people. They need not be shy and they care an awful lot about people. Lots of actors are introverts as well, feeling safe on stage, believe it or not, and overwhelmed on the street. But not making eye contact can be interpreted as not caring or being lost in internal processing and thoughts.

Adding behaviors can be helpful but you do not have to change your personality. There was once an introverted mortgage officer, an extremely quiet man who could not network. He was advised not to do anything that was contrary to his nature and to tell people that he was looking for an organization that could really use the skills that he had. He said it straight forward. He never changed his manner. He was still quiet, not dynamic but was earnest, solid and sincere and believe it or not, he was embraced everywhere he went.

You must know who you are and be honest with people. Pick something that means a lot to you and approach people on that basis. Don’t lie to them. Present ideas , in a business like way, that are interesting to BOTH parties.

You need to have a focus and a target and a genuine reason for speaking to people. Too many use a bogus story and small talk doesn’t fit well for introverts. There is nothing wrong with coming out and saying that you are looking for an opportunity, but say that the reason you want to talk to that person is what particularly matters to you.

To sum it up, you may need to learn some new ‘extroverted’ skills and behaviors to become more effective and comfortable with yourself and the processes. You cannot change who you are, or your preference for the introverted style. But, you can learn extroverted ways, and still be true to yourself. Learning those ways is like an acquired taste. With the new acquired tastes, networking your networking appetite and approach may be whetted and increased.

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