Introduction from Alana:
When I requested ideas for blog topics for this month, several community members came back to inquire about the age-old issue of Networking for introverts. To offer some solutions, I sought out an introvert! The funny thing is, you’d never know Angela Connelly is an introvert unless she told you.
By day, Angela is the chief marketing officer for the PKD (polycystic kidney disease) Foundation, an international organization headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. In her “spare time,” Angela is president of the Kansas City Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (KC/IABC) and is on the board of the UMKC Bloch Alumni Association. She can often be found around town at networking events, making presentations, and meeting people for coffee. Or you won’t find her at all because she’s curled up with a book embracing her internal introvert and recharging. I guess that’s the beauty of being a self-proclaimed introvert who has learned to effective connect with others despite the energy it often requires or the fear she sometimes feels.
Here are her tips for managing through the trepidation… I suspect there are a few extroverts among us who may also benefit from Angela’s keen advice!
Guest post by Angela Connelly, CMO, PKD Foundation
Networking is a word that puts fear in the hearts of introverts. I know this because I am one. I’m also a marketing communications professional and a leader, roles that are externally focused. I’ve adapted to be effective in these roles without compromising my inner introvert. Here are some things I’ve learned about how to overcome the fear and build a rich network.
Strategies to Build Your Network
- Meet with people one on one or in small groups. Most people are helpful, gracious, and willing to give you a few minutes. Asking someone to meet for coffee is low risk, and you can control the environment. You can also gather small groups of people with similar interests, again, where you can control the setting.
- Volunteer. Get involved in a committee with your professional organization. It will give you something to focus on, allow you to showcase your skills, and help you build relationships with colleagues by working together in smaller groups.
- Take it online. Introverts tend to be writers and like time for contemplation. Social media provides an ideal platform for this. Blog, post in social media, and contribute to others’ posts. Again, you have control in this environment. You also have time to formulate your thoughts on your terms.
- Get a friend. Find a friend who is an extrovert and ask them to accompany you to events. This will make you feel not so alone and awkward. They can teach you by example and pull you along.
- Just do it. Go to conferences and networking events, but DON’T listen to your amygdale, the fight or flight part of your brain. Know that despite the voices in your head, people are not lions wanting to eat you, and you’re not in the jungle (you can always retreat to the bathroom). It does get easier over time and with practice.
- Fake it ’til you make it. Put a smile on your face and dive in…before you know it you’ll be smiling for real. Also, stand up straight (your mother was right).
- Find someone who looks like they are alone and uncomfortable (like you!). They’ll be grateful someone is talking with them, and it’s easier than breaking into a group that has already bonded.
- Ask people about themselves. Introverts are great listeners and that is a rare commodity these days, so embrace it.
- Look at the attendee list ahead of time (if you can). Identify people you know or would like to meet so you can seek them out.
- Follow-up. When you meet people at these events, get their card and connect with them after. Connect with them on LinkedIn (note how you met them), and ask them for coffee.
- Bonus Tip… Read the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
I will always be an introvert, but I know how to be extroverted when I need to be. Networking has helped me get jobs and meet people I would have never known if I hadn’t taken the extroverted leap. Are you ready to take the leap? Jump in…the water’s safe.