Networking is a key part of building long-term, influential relationships in your career. While striking up a conversation with a stranger is easy for some, introverts like me would say otherwise. Introverts prefer to gain energy by themselves in quiet spaces, almost the opposite of social settings such as networking events. If this sounds like you, use these tips to help you succeed at your next networking event.
1. Prepare: Make sure you set aside alone time before going to a networking event if you can. This will assure you that your ‘social battery’ is charged and ready to be put to work. In addition, set intentions about who you want to meet, what you want to know about them, and what you want to share with them. There’s no shame in having a set of questions in your head (and even practicing them beforehand) to reduce stress. Try setting a goal about how many people you want to connect with to hold yourself accountable and give you a sense of accomplishment once you achieve it.
2. Be an active listener: Introverts often prefer listening instead of speaking, so use that to your advantage! Showing that you are actively listening to a person makes them more engaged and can help the conversation flow in a more natural way. Practice active listening with eye contact, appropriate gestures like nodding, and minor interjections that show you understand what the other person is saying.
3. Don’t be afraid to talk about topics outside of work: Conversations don’t always have to be about work. As long as it’s work-appropriate, discussing things like similar interests can build identification and give you and your partner a break from ‘work talk’. This can make you more memorable and can lead to a genuine connection that you can reach out to in the future. If the person you are talking to graduated from the same university as you, consider making it a talking point.
After using these tips to nail your networking event, be sure to follow up with anyone you met via LinkedIn or email. It may take practice, but mastering the skill of networking will reward you with influential connections that can positively impact your professional life in the future.