Articles Blog

Networking: A Survival Guide for Introverts

Networking: A Survival Guide for Introverts

So, Welcome! To ‘Networking: A survival guide to introverts’ presented by BreAnne Meier our library development specialist here at the North Dakota State Library. Ok. Thank you. Hello. My name is BreAnne Meier. I’m currently a library development specialist at the ND state library and I’m an introvert who hates networking. Please feel free to use the chat option. I won’t actually be able to see it but Angie is here to relay any questions you have to me at the end of the presentation. If I am unable to get to all the questions I will contact you as soon as I can with answers or we can have a discussion later on. All of my contact information will be at the end of the webinar. So, a little bit of background… when I was first approached to do a webinar I had no idea what the subject should be. I had no desire to do one & couldn’t think of a single topic that I would be comfortable enough to actually present on. After discussing ideas with the people in my office someone suggested networking for introverts would probably be a good topic. As the department introvert, I figured it would be a fantastic opportunity to do research on how I could learn to network and then share that information with others. This was originally intended to be a webinar for library workers who are attending the North Dakota Library Association’s annual conference in 2 weeks to share some tips and tricks on how to network. However, word got out and here we are! While I’ve always assumed there were quite a few introverts in the library world I never dreamed this would be such a popular subject. I definitely no longer feel all alone in a sea of extroverts anymore. If any of you are like me conferences can be a stressful time even when you’re planning to just attend without presenting anything. The best times are at night after everything is done, I can be in a quiet area and also during the sessions when I don’t need to talk to anyone because we’re all just there to learn. In between sessions are usually OK because there is a small amount of time to talk & I can always say I need to hurry to my next session. It’s the long breaks, included meals, and the after-hours socials where I find I have the most trouble. Ok, so I know you’re not here to listen to my experiences and I hope I’m not already boring you. I just wanted to include this so you know where this topic came from and where I’m coming from as a fellow introvert. I will admit that I have only tried a few of the following tips and tricks and not all of these will work for each of us. We’re all very different and being introverted is just one aspect of our personalities. Networking can be hard. Unfortunately, it is also a necessary evil that we need to do in the course of our jobs. there are times when it seems like we all live in our own communities and have no idea what the libraries in near by towns (or across the state) are doing. By connecting with them at a conference or other networking event, you can get to know your neighbors. Having someone who knows what you are going through and can answer questions or help generate new ideas that would be beneficial for both communities is great. It will also make emailing them for collaborative projects a little easier if you know who they are and have a previous connection. Networking can also help you if you are searching for a new career or job. Having a connection with people who may be hiring your “dream job” can give you a leg up on the other applicants. One other reason to network is that you may find a new friend. You’re all there for similar reasons. Embrace that and meet new people! If you are a part of this webinar, there’s a good chance that you know you are an introvert. Introverts make up a significant part of the population, with some claiming that more than 50% of the workforce in the United States are introverts. Not all introverts are the same, of course. There is a wide spectrum of people, some of whom even exhibit a few extroverted signs. For the sake of the webinar I am going to assume that you all fall to the mid to very introverted, wherein communicating and being around people for a lengthy amount of time can be overwhelming and exhausting. You can decide for yourself how long a lengthy amount of time is. By being here and self identifying yourself as an introvert I’m sure you know what an introvert is so I’m not going to get too deep into that. I’m just going to say that introverts tend to lose energy the more they are involved in social interactions They can find it hard to talk with people they don’t know, which makes meeting new people & networking tiring and sometimes feel impossible. Another thing that many introverts tend to do is project their feelings onto others. I, for example, or, if for example, I don’t like being interrupted by a phone call at work many times I will project the feeling onto someone I need to call and feel bad about calling them because they’re not going to be happy that I’m interrupting them. If that makes any sense at all. A lot of times, these projections are not correct. I do want to point out, that being an introvert is actually pretty awesome. Introverts are generally found to be great listeners, which, in turn, can help them connect with people more easily. Use this skill when networking. These next slides will include tips and tricks that I have come across in my research that may be of use to you when you are preparing for and attending your next conference or networking event. Think about why you are there and what you expect to get out of this. Come up with some questions you can ask or observations you can make. For example, you could ask people if they have been to the conference or event in prior years or what they thought of the sessions they’ve already attended. Whatever you decide to ask them, make sure you’ve also prepared what types of responses you can give depending on the answer. Do you have an opinion on the sessions you’ve attended? Because that will probably be asked and you should make sure you have an answer. Now you do not have to make your observation or question about the event. If you’d be more comfortable talking about personal hobbies or family, go right ahead. Again, you will be asked about your hobbies and family if you go that route. I find it easier to converse about the conference itself instead of going right into asking someone about their personal life. It seems a little off putting to me but that may just be because I don’t like opening up to strangers and I’m projecting my feelings onto the other person. Stop thinking about how awful this is going to be and think about the positive aspects. This will only be as valuable to you, as you allow it to be. Don’t go into it with a defeatist attitude. Decide that you can do this and you are going to make meaningful connections. Even if it isn’t an entirely positive experience it will be helpful in the long run. Even if it was just to see how not to do something. I find that if you get to places early it is much easier to network with people. Getting there before everyone else, gives you the chance to observe the people who come in after you and lets you decide who you want to communicate with. If you get there late people who you probably want to network with will already be in a deep conversation with someone else. It may actually seem like everyone is already in conversation with others and involving yourself in their conversation can be very difficult, especially when you don’t know them. There’s no rule that says you have to stay the entire time (unless your boss says otherwise). Sometimes you need to get away from people and just be by yourself. Decide before hand how long you’ll stay and go from there. Once you hit your goal, feel free to leave. If you need an excuse to leave, just apologize and say you need to be somewhere. Now, if you are having a good time and the conversation is going really well, don’t leave just because you put in the time. I would only advise using this if you are feeling like you absolutely need to leave. If you do decide to leave, find a quiet place where you can recharge. Sometime you’ll be able to go to your hotel room for some peace and quiet. If not, try to find another place. I’ve discovered that, although it looks like it would be a great place to sit quietly in a comfy chair, the hotel lobby or event lobby is not the place to go. People will find you. As an introvert this recharge time is needed, do not skip it. OK So even with everyone on mute, I can hear the groans. Relax? Really?! That’s easier said than done. If you are in a conversation with someone, try to stop worrying about what you’re going to have to say in response. Focus on the person. Listen to what they are saying. Ask questions. Be yourself. If you try to be someone you’re not, you’ll only make yourself more exhausted than you normally would be. Don’t think about how you should act, just be yourself. Talk to them like you would a close acquaintance. Get to know them. Just try to relax. When I say “be open” I don’t mean you should bare your entire soul to a new person. It just means to make sure that your body language shows them that you are willing to communicate with people. People will probably walk up to you and make the first point of contact, which can release the burden of thinking you’re going to have to somehow introduce yourself to people first. One way to show yourself as closed off is by looking at your cell phone. This shows that you are uninterested in the people around you and do not want people to come talk to you. However true this might be, put the phone away and at least pretend to want to network. If you can, take a co-worker with you. Don’t do this alone. I tend to gravitate towards my co-workers whenever we are at a conference or training. This isn’t to say that you should stay with your co-worker the entire time and not go out and meet new people, but it can make things a little easier in the beginning. Maybe your co-worker has already met some people that he or she can introduce you to. Or your can go up to people together and support each other. If you don’t have a co-worker in attendance try to make just one connection. Someone once told me that she finds one person who seems to be more extroverted and makes sure to introduce herself right away at the beginning of the conference. This way, she has someone who she can dine with and who will definitely be making more connections, which in turn gives her more connections. Again, if you do have co-workers or friends there, make sure you don’t spend all your time with them. It can be really easy to just chat with them and not have to worry about meeting new people and trying to build a brand new connection. Don’t do it! Easier does not make it better! You’re there to meet new people. Don’t waste that time talking to people you already communicate with every day. It’s not the number of contacts you make, it’s the quality of these contacts. One meaningful contact can replace dozens of minor meet and greet-type situations. Get to know just a few people, rather than trying to connect with many people. Don’t go in thinking that you need to meet a whole bunch of new people in a set amount of time. Pace yourself! If you make a few meaningful contacts, rather than a whole bunch of acquaintances, it’s better. Make sure to ask questions and listen to the answers you receive. Many people really enjoy talking about themselves. Find out more about this person and build that hopefully mutual, beneficial relationship. It may help to remember that there are introverts among the crowd of people around you. As mentioned before, a significant portion of the population is introverted. If you can find the other introverts in the room, try to connect with them. In some industries, introverts are definitely the majority in attendance and they are all a little worried about conversing with the others in the room. When you make that connection with someone, make sure to get his/her business card. Not only will this be a great way to get contact information in case you need to get ahold of them, you can also write down details of the conversation you just had with them. Not all of these tips and tricks will work for you. But I’m hoping some of these will help in your next networking endeavor. This will take time! Don’t expect to suddenly be a master networker. Take it slow and let your confidence develop with each new networking experience. If you’re comfortable doing it, you can try to challenge yourself by saying you want to meet X number of new people at the next conference. This gives you a goal that you can strive for and can boost your confidence by proving to yourself that you are capable of meeting new people and being able to network. For some reason, when I make it a game or contest to talk to a certain number of people, I tend to not only meet the goal but exceed it. In the beginning it was how many people could I say “hello” to and it has now gotten to the point where it has to actually be a conversation before it counts. Again, start small and slowly build it up. Find out what works for you. Practice. Networking is a skill and in order to learn that new skill you need to practice. It may help to enlist others to help you practice and remember that all of this takes time. One thing I would like to stress, is make sure you follow up with your new contacts, even if it is just a quick email saying that it was nice meeting him/her at the conference. There’s no sense in going through all the hassle if you don’t do anything afterwards. Some people recommend connecting with people on social media. I think that this is a case by case basis and know that you are taking a risk that they might decline your request or think that you are presuming that you all are great friends now. even though the only contact you’ve had with them was a quick hello. Again, this may just be me projecting my feelings onto others. This is a list of the resources I used. They were immeasurably helpful. This topic has been coming up a lot over the past few months, so the word is getting out. Ok, so here’s my contact information If you have any questions later on, please let me know. Umm…this was my first webinar ever, so if you have any critiques or suggestions, please feel free to send them to me. I’m always happy to hear about what I can do better, in case there’s ever a next time. I hope this topic was relevant and you got something out of it. Well, thank you so much for your time.

1 thought on “Networking: A Survival Guide for Introverts”

  1. Terrific, BreAnne. I have to practice what I think I want to say a million times. Doesn't mean I can remember and just babble incoherently, but, I try. Thank you so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *