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Networking for introverts: 4 tips for successful networking, even when you hate it

April Jordan headshot, woman stands in business atire in front of green background

Few love networking, but as an introvert, I hate it. I find the fast-paced, often surface level interactions at networking events drain me in about 0.2 seconds flat. After these events I always joke that I have a “people hangover.” But I know that to be successful in business I need to learn to navigate networking well. So as part of my learning and personal development goals this year, I set out to get better at networking and make it a far more natural and healthy process which would allow me to avoid those dreaded hangovers and make enjoyable and beneficial connections.

Luckily for me, I have a friend who is a natural networker. She lights up when new people enter the room, makes people comfortable and moves through the interactions with such ease that I genuinely wonder if it’s magic. So I thought – if I need to get better at networking, I may as well learn from the best, right?

“Hey, can I buy you a coffee and pick your brain about networking?”

We met. I learned. The opportunity to chat with someone who understands how I interact in a networking setting was invaluable (so I definitely encourage you to do the same). What’s more, I walked away with four actionable networking for introverts tips (the magic!):

  • Start conversations with something specific and personal. It can be hard to steer conversations away from small talk if you start there (so don’t just jump in with “so what do you do?”). Instead, start conversations with questions that leave room for interesting answers and in-depth conversations:
    • What was the best tip you learned from the speaker today?
    • How do you plan to use that tip at work?
    • What challenges do you face at work?
    • What new ideas or projects are giving you energy?
  • Find your niche. Guide conversations towards shared interests, and focus on building a strong connection with like-minded people. Building from the last point, since you’re most likely part of a niche interest or expertise group that’s relevant to the overarching theme of the event, say so! You’re more likely to form a lasting connection and be memorable to someone if you get really specific about your area of interest or expertise and seek others who can relate.

  • Be vulnerable. If you’re nervous, be honest about it! There’s a good chance that you’re surrounded by other nervous people who are more introverted than not (the true extroverts probably don’t need to attend a lot of networking events), so everyone else who’s awkwardly fiddling with the event brochure while racking their mind for something interesting to say will appreciate having a comrade who breaks the ice and makes them feel normal.

  • Build an electronic “paper trail.” As you walk away from meeting someone, send them a quick email or message right away (so make sure you grab their business card or add them on LinkedIn). This can be as simple as: “Hey Jessica, great meeting you at the engineering conference!” The goal is to make it easy to remember how you know them, and remind them how they met you when they check their messages later.

Now thatI have these tips in my mental toolbox, networking feels a lot less scary. I have already been practicing by:

  • Striking up non-small-talk conversations with people
  • Planning to attenda networking event next month (wish me luck!)
  • Organizing  a photography and coffee event for creatives next month to get to know people and facilitate networking for others (of course, I invited my magical networking friend to so I have support)  

If you found these ideas for successful networking for introverts helpful, be sure to share. And for more career tips and ideas, visit our blog and follow Motion Canada on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Or, if you’re interested in a new career at a company where your professional development (like getting better at networking!) is recognized and supported, visit our job board and apply to be a partner.  

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