It's a truth universally acknowledged that networking is an essential part of career success. Unfortunately, it can also kind of suck — especially if you're an introvert.
If the idea of noisy, crowded events and interacting with strangers fills you with anxiety, you're not alone! The good news is, it's possible for introverts to network effectively — it just takes a few adjustments.
In this guide, we've put together some tried-and-true networking strategies that introverts can use to meet new people and open doors to new opportunities.
How to network as an introvert
Attending a face to face gathering or networking event? Here's how to make it go smoothly:
- Make a list of questions and icebreakers
- Have an elevator pitch
- Leverage your existing network
- Organize one-on-one networking opportunities
- Bring a friend
- Allow yourself time to recharge
Participating in an online networking event requires slightly different strategies. Here are some tips for networking online:
- Look for virtual networking opportunities
- Reach out to new contacts over email first
- Keep in touch via social media
- Build a personal brand
In-person networking tips
Make a list of questions and icebreakers
If you’re going to a networking event — whether in-person or virtual — a little preparation can go a long way towards helping you feel more comfortable and in your element.
For example, coming up with thoughtful questions or fun icebreakers beforehand will cut down on your stress by giving you easy ways to start conversations with people. These don't have to be particularly clever or unique, but having a "script" of sorts means there's one less thing you have to worry about on the day.
Have an elevator pitch
This might sound cheesy, but practising what you want to say in advance is actually a really good way to quiet those nerves.
An elevator pitch is a quick rundown of who you are and what you do. It doesn’t have to be a long speech — ideally, it should be around 30-60 seconds — but if you’ve thought ahead of time about what you’ll say, you're less likely to trip over your words or lose confidence at the last minute.
Leverage your existing network
If you're not sure where to start, why not ask people in your network to connect you with their contacts? If one of your acquaintances knows someone who’s influential in your field or is a recruiter at a company you’d like to work for, don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction. More often than not, your colleague will be happy to help you out, and the shared connection will make it easier to approach the person you want to meet.
Organize one-on-one networking opportunities
If you want to get a deeper level of insight and understanding into your industry, you can set up informational interviews with professionals who have been in your line of work for some time. Often, these industry veterans will be glad to share their wisdom and experience with you. Introverts especially may enjoy these kinds of interviews because they lead to in-depth conversations and let you create a genuine connection with the other person.
Bring a friend
Bringing a buddy might also help you feel less alone — just make sure you still branch out and meet new people! Instead of dragging them everywhere with you, use them as a safe base of operations where you can have a quick time out to regroup.
Allow yourself time to recharge
And when you’re an introvert, it’s crucial to know and respect your limits with regards to socializing. If you’re starting to feel tired or drained, give yourself permission to step away from the group — or even leave the event. Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
Online networking tips
Look for virtual networking opportunities
If going to meet-and-greet events isn’t your cup of tea — or still isn't an option for you — there are a huge range of virtual opportunities for meeting and talking with other professionals. Virtual job fairs, conferences, and networking events have proven they're here to stay. While these events are still social, you might find it less stressful to meet and talk with people virtually.
You can find online networking events by:
- Browsing the Virtual Fair Calendar on the National Career Fairs website
- Searching sites like EventBrite for online conferences and events
- Looking for virtual Meetup groups in your area
Reach out to new contacts over email first
When contacting a new person for the first time, you may find it easier to start with an email. While exchanging emails with someone is less personal than meeting face-to-face, it can be a low-stress way to break the ice with a new contact and start building rapport. Later, you can move to a video chat, phone call, or in-person meeting.
Keep in touch via social media
Networking isn’t only about meeting new people — it’s also about keeping in touch with people you already know. You might already have a bigger circle of contacts than you realize, and it can feel less intimidating to start your networking journey by approaching people you already have some relationship with (even if you don’t know them well).
Keep your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues in the loop about what you’re up to professionally. You never know who may have an opportunity to share with you, or who may need your services somewhere down the line. Social media offers an easy way to share updates and keep in loose contact with others so that you stay on their radar.
Build your personal brand on LinkedIn
Another way to expand your network and connect with new people is to establish a strong presence on LinkedIn. LinkedIn isn’t only a popular social media platform; it’s an excellent tool for showcasing your professional experience and building your personal brand. And if you’re an introvert, creating a brand that draws others in may feel more natural than reaching out to people you don’t know well.
What should you share on your profile? You can reshare posts that are relevant to your industry -- or you can use LinkedIn’s Pulse platform to write and distribute your own content. Writing your own posts can help your ideas reach a new audience, boost your following, and position you as a thought leader in your field.
If you’re not sure which keywords to include on your LinkedIn profile, use the skills and keywords tool below to get a list of keywords relevant to your industry and job.
Why is networking so important?
Networking is an essential skill for career builders and job seekers alike. Having a strong network of social and professional contacts can create new opportunities for you, no matter what line of work you’re in. Through networking, you can connect with potential employers, clients, and collaborators. And if you’re an entrepreneur, you can build awareness of your brand and grow your business to new levels.
Why is it hard for introverts to network?
Building any kind of a network can require a lot of social interaction. And if you have an introverted personality or social anxiety, that's not always an easy task.
When you’re an introvert seeking to grow your professional network, it can feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. It’s often easier for extroverted types to mingle with others, strike up conversations, and make new business contacts because of their outgoing nature. For introverts, social interaction can feel draining, and small talk might feel like a challenge.
Why introverts are better at networking (really)
On the plus side, as an introvert, you’re probably a great listener, highly observant, and empathic towards other people. By accepting and embracing your natural way of relating to others, you can become an excellent networker and form authentic connections without exhausting yourself in the process.
Even if you’re introverted by nature, you can still build a thriving professional network. Although you may not be up for meeting tons of new people all the time, you likely form authentic, long-lasting connections with those you do meet. Embracing who you are will only make you more powerful and successful in any line of work you choose.