Networking, networking and networking – this is the most common advice given to anyone looking to change jobs, to find more clients or to make a career change… When you are an introvert like I am, it seems a formidable challenge when I was first given this advice a few years back. Having recently settled in the UK and looking for business opportunities, networking in an environment as a newcomer seems almost impossible.
I knew that I would be able to network effectively at some point in time in the future. It required me to get out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. That is something that I have had a lot of practice over the years. I focused on my ultimate goal and got on with networking. Today, I network once or twice a week and am able to make relevant connections 75% of the time. I would like to share with you how I got on to achieve those results.
- Define Your Ultimate Goal
What is your motivation to network? How important is this to you? Who else will benefit if you are able to network effectively? These are the things that would help you make progress and enjoy networking. Anything that you enjoy doing will undoubtedly bring good results and you would be able to do it over the long term.
- Taking Baby Steps
London gives you endless opportunities for meeting new people. Meetup.com is a place where new groups and events are being created. A diverse range of subjects are covered: photography, culture, therapies, business etc. Some of these events are free and it allows you to go and explore. Pace Yourself. Choose to go to an event with no expectations and see what it feels like, how did it go and whether you have had any positive experience. To make it easier, choose one where the size of the audience is not going to be overwhelming. Other networking groups are BNI, Sterling Business Network, London Chamber of Commerce, etc.
- Choose events on subjects that you enjoy
I am not a great sportsperson. So, attending a sports event is not my thing. I enjoy going to a writers’ club or going to listen to an inspirational talk. I am going not only to meet people but also to learn something new. So, in case I don’t make any useful connections – it does not matter. I would leave with a few golden nuggets.
- Review And Change Strategy
Every few weeks, review and make a list of the things you like and those that you don’t. One of the good things being an introvert, we are self-sufficient as we tend to look inwards rather than outwards. Strategies are about changing our behaviours and attitudes. Your behaviour is changed when you modify your beliefs. Whatever you don’t like – decide what you would like instead. Then, list options about how to go about.
- Trial and Error
There is no deadline about getting the results you are aiming for. Strategies are meant to evolve over time and with priorities changing, your strategies would need to adapt to the current situation. Flexibility is important when people are involved. You can only control your behaviour, your beliefs. Believing that you can control other people’s attitudes is a myth!. Faking your attitude is also a no go. It does not help when you are trying to reach out to like minded individuals… you end up with the wrong crowd!
- You Are Not Alone
Being an introvert, you don’t shout at the top of the roof, who you are… You tend to make your way discretely. Yet, there are many of you who have overcome similar challenges and found their place. Susan Cain delivered an inspirational TED talk a few years ago about the power of introverts. Following her talk, she recently set up a community for Introverts: Quiet Revolution. There are many testimonials of introverts having achieved their goals such as public speaking, successful business owners..
- Networking Is About Listening
Networking is neither about collecting business cards nor about the ones who stands out. It is about creating connections that would be playing a role in your career, business or even in your personal life. Some of the people I met at networking events happen to be my friends, mentor and people I aspire to be. For you to make the relevant connections, use one of the main strengths of an introvert – be an empathetic listener. Making small talk and learn to know more about the people you meet comes quite easy when you are genuinely listening and not listening to reply.
- Do One To One Meetings
When you feel good about someone, don’t hesitate to ask to meet for a coffee. You will be surprised at how much you may have in common with the person. Trust your guts. Your guts instincts work when you are true to yourself and be accepting of you are.
- Take Time Out
Introverts need their own breathing space and time alone. This is how you recharge your batteries. Schedule quiet time for yourself on a regular basis even if it means that you don’t meet anyone for a day or two. Your “me” time actually helps to access your personal creativity and come up with new ideas, new options and renewed enthusiasm. Being is as important as Doing for Introverts.
Today, when I tell the people that I am an introvert – they are surprised. I have learnt to be at ease talking to strangers, doing public talks and training groups of people. It has taken me a while to learn to use my introverted personality to my advantage when I am networking. . Networking is not only for sales people and are not for extroverts only. It can be fun and fulfilling when you learn to harness your personality to create your tribe and grow your network!