If you’re one of the estimated 50 percent of women who are introverts, networking can be an incredibly difficult part of building your career. Whether you’re looking for a new job or trying to grow in your chosen profession, joining your team for drinks after work or attending a chamber of commerce meeting, interacting with large groups and strangers is going to be stressful and exhausting.
Making new professional contacts is a key part of advancing your career, and there’s no reason only extroverts should get that advantage. The good news is that there are ways introverts can make networking work for them.
1. Know your limits.
If you find long interactions with strangers draining, it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to meet 15 new people and stay through a three hour networking event. Instead, set goals you know won’t be overwhelming, such as talking to two new people or staying for half an hour. Don’t push yourself too far, or you’ll just end up irritated and burned out.
If you can, go networking with a buddy who is outgoing but understands your personality. They’re more likely to take the initiative in starting conversations and can help you stay focused when you start to feel overwhelmed.
2. Embrace social media.
If going to a network event makes you feel panicked, take your first steps on social media. By creating strong profiles on networks like LinkedIn or Twitter, you make it easy for colleagues and recruiters to find you without the pressure of a face-to-face interaction. Eventually those online exchanges could turn into coffee meetings or job interviews, but once you’ve connected online, you may find it easier to approach new contacts in person.
3. Plan out what you’ll say.
Meeting lots of people is stressful enough for introverts—trying to figure out what to say at the same time can be downright exhausting. Prepare yourself by planning out a few things to say when you start a conversation with new people.
Hopefully you already have a ten-second elevator pitch worked out—“I’m a publicist who helps sustainable and eco-friendly business create name recognition and a loyal customer base,” for example—but it can be a good idea to have a few conversation starters as well. Come up with a good work story that you can share, or a few interesting facts about yourself. The less energy you have to spend on figuring out what to say, the more you’ll have left for actually interacting with people.
4. Be the one to ask questions.
Introverts are often good listeners, which actually puts them at an advantage during networking events. That’s because the secret to good networking isn’t to talk about yourself—it’s to get others to talk and to genuinely respond to what they say.
Asking questions takes the spotlight off you while also making you seem interested and friendly to others. If you ask for new colleagues for advice about the industry, you’ll make them feel good about themselves at the same time. It will take less effort than just trying to talk about yourself, and your new contacts will remember you positively.
5. Practice self-care.
If you do make it through an in-person networking event, set aside some time to care for yourself afterwards. That could mean scheduling a massage, taking a relaxing bath, or just giving yourself permission not to talk to anyone else for the day. Whatever you chose, the important thing is to let yourself turn off.
Not only will self-care give you some much needed recovery time, it will also help you associate networking with something pleasant. If you have something to look forward to after a networking event, you’re more likely to get through it with a smile on your face—and maybe even be willing to try it a second time.
This article was originally published on GOGIRL Finance.
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