Many people are surprised to discover I am an introvert. That tells me I know how to fake being an extrovert really well. The truth is, talking to people and networking with others scares me. All of my junior high insecurities come rushing back. What if they don’t like me? What if I can’t think of anything to say? Is Jason Mueller ever going to ask me to the dance? Wait, scratch that last one. If you are an introvert you are probably also very intelligent, intuitive and sensitive. Which means there is nothing to fear. Contrary to what you think, networking for you will be a breeze. Try these tips:
• Start with a compliment. People love to be told that they are wearing something you like, or that you heard them say something brilliant. Start with a little bit of praise (keep it general, and don’t be weird about it. You don’t want to look like a stalker) and then introduce yourself.
• Find common ground. If you learn that someone supports the same charity that you do, or you both have kids at the same school, use that to get a conversation going.
• Smile. People will be a lot more welcoming if you have a smile on your face instead of that pained expression that you wear when the dentist is clipping the paper napkin around your neck.
• Follow up. Networking is pointless if you never talk to people again after meeting them. Keep a supply of business cards with you so you can share them with the people you meet. Send a quick email when you get back to the office, or set up a meeting before you leave.
• Try the buddy system. Attend events with a colleague or a friend, preferably one who is an extrovert. Just follow his or her lead and then try to break off on your own and see what you’re capable of.