Networking for introverts—it’s less terrible than you think!
Does introducing yourself to strangers make you break out in a cold sweat? Do you prefer staying home in your jammies to going to any event that requires small talk? I feel you. But connecting with other humans doesn’t have to make you die inside. And if you work for yourself or have a side hustle, “networking” can be crucial. Here’s how to put yourself out there without losing your mind.
Know Your Goals & Come Equipped
Have a game plan before getting social. Are you trying to get the word out about your creative endeavor? Are you hoping to meet like-minded folks who share your entrepreneurial passions? Define what you intend to achieve, and remember to bring anything that can help you get to your goal: business cards, sample products, promo materials, etc. Approaching social situations with a mission puts you in control of your interactions, helps inform your conversational flow, and makes talking to unfamiliar people less awkward.
Find the Right Places to Connect
Be selective and strategic about where you congregate for the purpose of networking. The right place, plus the right crowd, equals less awkward small talk and more meaningful connections. Get creative: a book-signing or art exhibition could even make networking—gasp—enjoyable!
Watch Your Body Language
It’s easy to default into familiar, standoffish posturing, especially if you feel nervous. Be mindful not to cross your arms or put a barrier between yourself and others by hiding behind a purse or clutching a drink with two hands. You can exude confidence by keeping your shoulders back and widening your stance with your back straight, which is statistically proven to improve how people perceive you.
Use Your Introversion to Your Advantage
Introverts are well known for their awesome ability to listen and read subtle nonverbal cues. And, thankfully, most people want to talk about themselves! Ask open-ended questions, and let the other person yap away. You can seamlessly weave in information about yourself as the conversation progresses.
Embrace the Discomfort Zone
Reframe how you think about social interactions. If the term “networking” makes you dry heave, think about it as an opportunity to connect instead. Remember your mission and purpose, and that making meaningful contacts can help you on your path. You’re not obligated to connect with every person in the room, just the right ones.
By Luca Cusolito
Illustrated by Hannah Li
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2017 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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