Networking in business is a key factor to being successful. Whether it is networking in large groups to build your book of customers, or networking within your office to help nab that promotion, being able to clearly and comfortably communicate with other professionals is an important skill to develop. Why, then, do so many people cringe when they hear they have to attend a networking event?
This is especially true if their natural style is to be introverted. To many people, networking means unabashedly promoting oneself and that is something they are not comfortable doing. Or, they may feel comfortable speaking with new people, but feel funny and unnatural promoting themselves.
Networking boils down to communication. In fact, communicating about oneself at networking events or business functions should be easy. After all, unlike cold calling, introducing oneself and speaking about your profession is expected at these functions.
Still, you will likely notice groups of people who struggle at these events. They stand off by themselves, wait to be approached, avoid eye contact, and miss the entire point of the function. Sometimes you may see a small group of people gather who keep their circle tight and send off unwelcoming vibes. Why? They found people who speak their language and they have little interest in branching out.
People who are in professions like Information Technology, Finance, Accounting, and Engineering tend to be analytic, cautious, conscientious and describe themselves as introverts. I’ve written about the difficulties they may face in communicating with co-workers or customers in past articles titled IT Communication in the Workplace and IT Leaders and Communication Skills in the Workplace. These intelligent professionals often cluster together at social events because they speak the same language.
Communication means speaking in a manner that the listener understands. This can be a challenge for the analytical, detailed minded professional. They may not have the patience nor the desire to speak in layman’s terms or find the wording that makes sense to the listener. This makes for poor networking. Luckily, these are skills that can be developed.
The highly regarded Career Management Professional Dr. Charles Sodikoff, Senior Consultant with Cooperperson Performance Consulting, also describes his style as analytical and cautious. He shares the tips he finds most useful and that he utilizes in his daily life.
Networking is an important part of your job. It takes commitment and self-discipline which happens to be a strength of introverts.
The negative self- messages “I am not good at it” and “I can’t do it” are not helpful. Don’t label yourself as an introvert. You can do it and you can be very good at it. If you learn how, practice and get out there, you will find out you can do it and can do it very well.
If you have difficulty breaking the ice with strangers and talking off the cuff, then prepare a “script” for breaking the ice and some small talk. Listen as the conversation ensues. Your next questions or comments will come naturally. They are there in your head so give yourself permission to say them.
The more you practice, the less awkward you will feel. Remember, most of the awkwardness is in your own head.
Networking, as you get better at it, will actually become less stressful and be fun.