No successful business owner or entrepreneur can exist without some kind of supportive network. You need mentors to get you started, a consumer base to start your revenue and other professionals to learn from. You could know a few from previous college courses or community events you attended, but most of the time people need to network to make connections.
Networking is the process of introducing yourself to new people in the hopes that they become professional contacts. It’s a standard business practice that’s terrifying for introverts since it involves getting to know strangers.
Although you may feel uncomfortable meeting someone new, it’s possible to get used to the process and use it to your advantage. Considering about seven in 10 jobs are found through networking, it could be all you need to experience more professional success.
Read on to learn five tips for learning to love networking as an introvert.
1. Plan Your Conversation Starters
You may not know who you’ll talk to until you get to a networking event or start your workday, but you can always plan your conversation starters. The easiest way to get someone talking is to ask them simple small talk questions. Ask what brought them to the event or what they do.
You can also locate fellow introverts and bond with them. Find the people hanging around just outside of crowds and ask them if you can join them where it’s quiet or complement their appearance. Before you meet anyone, consider easy conversation starters to help you figure out how to meet new people.
2. Listen to Your Partner
Once you get someone talking, make sure to listen. You may start thinking ahead about how to work your promotional materials into the conversation or give them your business card. Take a moment to pause. The only way the discussion will be beneficial is if you listen.
Inquire about things your partner brings up and mention similarities in your own business or interests. You may find the conversation going better than you’d planned, all because you made your partner feel comfortable and listened to.
3. Remember Social Media
You can always network with people in person, but don’t forget about your social media profiles. They’re how you connect with people every day, so you can use it to your advantage by cleaning up your profiles and adding people. Send requests to fellow business owners, friends and managers.
Introduce yourself in a direct message and keep it professional. You can always follow up in person if they seem interested and friendly.
4. Think About How to Give
Some of the anxiety related to networking may come from your panic at seeming too forward about sales. Instead of looking at people as an opportunity to profit, ask yourself what you can give to make the conversation beneficial for everyone involved. Bring donuts or bagels to an event. Volunteer at events for the business owners you talk to or talk with them about how you can help them with what you do.
The idea of helping others will make you more comfortable with starting a conversation and make everyone seem more approachable. No matter how successful you or your business are, there’s always a way to help others out.
5. Determine Your Quota
Some people may panic at the thought of networking because there’s a world of people to meet. You can reach an endless amount of people from different countries online and spend a week meeting new people at a single networking event. Narrow your focus to help calm your nerves.
Before you start networking, give yourself a quota to meet. After you exchange information with ten or fifteen people, you’re free to go home. You can rest and recharge, then continue networking afterward if you feel up to it.
Practice When You Can
You may feel uncomfortable when you network, but it will become more natural with time. Plan your conversation starters, listen to the people you talk to and think about what you have to contribute so it gets easier to talk with strangers. With time and practice, you’ll get used to it and become confident in your conversational skills.