Lucky extroverts. They live in a world where gregariousness is a treasured trait. Introverts, meanwhile, try to cope by mimicking extroverted behaviors, or by drowning in the noise and avoiding socializing all together. That’s why they usually get mistaken for shy people, even if sometimes they’re actually not.
What is introversion? Definitely, it isn’t shyness. Rather, it refers to what energizes us. Introverts are usually energized by spending time alone and reflecting quietly. They lose energy in a crowd, and would thus need to recharge after interacting with others. Extroverts, meanwhile, are the opposite. They get their energy from being in a large group of people, and they lose it from being alone. They are energized by being in the presence of others.
Introversion isn’t shyness in the sense that introverts don’t fear socializing. Rather, they prefer to spend most of their time in silent introspection, and would socialize once they feel ready to. Once they get their fill of socializing, they then feel the need to recharge and spend time alone again. And the cycle goes on.
Given this preference for introspection and spending time alone, can introverts mingle successfully and work the room like a champ? Yes, but not in the way extroverts do.
In a world where connection matters as much as knowledge, networking is a must-do for everyone. Our connections can help point us to various opportunities. Plus, it’s also a good feeling to be part of someone else’s success. Introverts can also work a room like a champ effectively, although differently, than their extrovert counterparts. Here’s how.
Have a game plan. Introverts are the type to have a gut feel on who a person is, and who they will feel comfortable befriending on a deeper level later on. The key is to identify these people during a networking event, establish contact, and make a good impression. You don’t have to be a social butterfly the way extroverts are. You are just not built that way. The important thing is quality rather than quantity. One crucial thing that sets you apart from extroverts is your ability to listen, and listen well. Your genuine interest in others will surely make a mark in another person’s mind. Afterwards, be sure to befriend them better though a follow-up email, a LinkedIn invitation, or a quick coffee to get to know the person better. And since you are the intuitive type, you can use your powers to identify areas where you can be of great help. Your sincerity will surely pay off.
Be the early bird. Since introverts are more comfortable with fewer people around, going to an event early enough will give you time to meet people and work your charm in the room. Get there late, when there are already swarms of people in the venue, and you will feel intimidated to approach people. By then, groups would have formed and it will be quite difficult to get through. Another thing you can do is to connect with the event’s attendees beforehand on social media—if the event has a social media page—so that you can have online acquaintances you’d want to meet offline come networking day.
Have the “home court” advantage by arranging your own networking event. Noisy bars and big conferences are not the only venues for effective networking. Just as life is what you make of it, your network likewise is what you make of it. The advantage of creating your own networking event is that you get to control the size of the event (of course introverts love small, intimate gatherings), as well as the environment. You can create your own small-sized party or gathering, invite friends, colleagues, and acquaintances whom you think have things in common, and ask each one to bring another friend. This way, you can reconnect with people you already know and comfortably establish new connections with friends of friends.
Go with your gut, network only when you feel like it. Here’s a thing that only a fellow introvert will understand: Introverts usually have to be emotionally ready before engaging in an event. There’s a time of preparation, a time of actually doing the networking, and a time of recovery. If this process gets messed up and shaken, an introvert’s networking ability can be shaken, too. Follow your gut and do what feels right for you. If you feel that it’s that time of the day when you can do back-to-back meetings and various interactions, be sure to schedule activities and meet people during this day. If you feel that it’s the time of the day when the only interaction you can do is reading about characters in a book, then by all means, recharge yourself quietly. This way, you can fully utilize those times when you are at your best with socializing, and utilize those times when you feel like isolating yourself to re-energize.