Networking guide for introverts

When you want to advance your business, you’re looking for a mentor or just want to learn the ins and outs of the business from your peers, you have to network. But this is difficult when you’re naturally crippled with shyness.

We can’t cure shyness, but we can give you steps on how to network, despite it. And if you are wondering how to find out about these events, you will find a listing somewhere on this page.  

1. Get a wing man/woman

SEE ALSO: 4 reasons entrepreneurs need mentors

If you have a colleague with shared interests, ask them if they’d also like to attend the event. This way, you’ll know at least one person.

If there’s room for discussion during the event, you’ll also have someone to bounce off your ideas. You might end up making more acquaintances through them if this isn’t their first time attending such an event.

2. Seek out other loners

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In most cases, you aren’t the only one afraid to mingle. I was lucky to have had a colleague who was interested in the first event that I attended. However, I was alone during the second one, and it felt like I’d been thrown to the wolves.

I didn’t know where to stand, which table to join or how to introduce myself. Then I saw this lady who’d been sitting by herself. I gathered my wits about me, approached her and introduced myself (she hadn’t been shy, she’d just stepped outside to take a phone call).

She invited me to her table where she helped break the ice by introducing me to her colleagues. Use your powers of observation when you walk into a room; you might spot a loner or two.

3. Engage your curiosity

Human beings are naturally curious. By the time you are attending an event, you’ve already researched about it. Arm yourself with questions that you’d like answers to, in case you get the chance to talk to heads of departments or company owners. 

Most people enjoy talking about themselves, therefore, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to draw out stories from them about their experiences. 

4. Don’t stick with friends. It’s not a party…

You can attend networking events with a friend, once in a while - especially if you work in the same industry. However, to network you have to make rounds; introduce yourself. You already know all there is to know about your friend.

They might be there to introduce you to new people, but don’t use them as a crutch. Once in a while, you can circle back to them, but work the room. This is how you’ll get out of your comfort zone.

5. Don’t apologise

One can easily pinpoint a networking novice by studying their mannerisms. Someone who is new to it will apologise for everything, even when asking for help (Sorry, can you show me the way to the washroom?).

Don’t apologise for wanting to know more about the person you are engaging (Sorry, can I ask you…). This shows lack of confidence. Believe in yourself. At the end of the day you have to believe that one day you’ll be able to help someone else who is in the position that you are in at the moment.

6. Don’t push your way in

Joining a conversation midway is usually awkward, especially if you’re not acquainted with the people in the group. Time your entry so that you don’t kill the flow of the conversation.

Smile, listen, ease your way in. When the opportunity arises, after you’ve gotten the gist of the conversation, pose a question. It is easier, if you’re shy, than sharing an opinion - or giving a speech.

7. Personalise your space

Wanting to learn more about others in your networking circle is good. But here’s another trick: Surround yourself with things that you like (hobbies) at work. For example, if you collect trinkets, hung a few in your work space.

These will act as ice breakers between you and your colleagues. At times, you’ll find that people want to try out new hobbies and interests outside of work. Become memorable by introducing them to your hobbies. You can become the woman who collects cars, or the man who bakes.

8. Always network

You don’t have to attend scheduled work events to network. Combining fun and networking will draw you out of your shell.

Social gatherings such as family get-togethers, church outings, or football matches are a great way to do both. The person beside or in front of you might be working for a company that you’d like to know about, so strike a conversation.  

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