Networking for Introverts

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Introvert merchandise at the link!

Last week I posted a T shirt on my Facebook page that said “Introverts Unite. We’re Here. We’re Uncomfortable. We Want to Go Home.” My message was “I need one of these.” I got dozens of “likes” and several comments, most of which were “me too!”.

Now, if you saw me in action, you wouldn’t think I was an introvert. I lead a extroverted life, teaching, running meetings, and being “on” at events. Last weekend I co-hosted a workshop called “Networking for Fun and Profit”, and it made me think a lot about skills introverts can develop to help them navigate the world of networking. Networking happens at conferences, at book readings, at workshops, at meetings. It can be informal (like at the post office, or after a service), or formal. It can be work related or completely social. It can be planned, or accidental. You should always be prepared, and for introverts, that may take a little extra effort. Here are some of my tips:

  • Make an event plan. Can you make a goal for yourself? Meet one new person? Get one business card? Talk to three people about your project/job/writing? Make the goal achievable. And try to get it taken care of early on.
  • Fake it till you make it. Literally look at your networking self as a role you need to play. Dress a little nicer than you need to. Always default to smiling. Work at eye contact. After a while it gets easier, but it is never easy for us introverts. So you play the part.
  • Work on the small talk, and talk to everyone. Networking is about making connections. Sometimes those connections can come from expected quarters. But in other instances, connections could come from unexpected places. The person you chat with about the stuffed dates–maybe she is best friends with someone you should meet. If nothing else, as a writer, talking to everyone is research.
  • Have your tool kit ready. I have a stash of business cards (writing and my day job), bookmarks (for Wicked Cozy Authors, Crime Bake, and Sisters in Crime New England), stickers, and buttons in my bag at all times. If you don’t have a business card, have one made. Even if it has your name and email and nothing else, it gives people something to take with them after you meet.
  • When you get a business card, write down how and when you met the person on the back. Send them a note, or an email, as a follow-up. Don’t be a pest, but keep in touch.

These are some tips. There is technology that can help (LinkedIn, for example), but nothing replaces in person meetings. So get out there, and network. Then go home, and take a long nap.

BOSTON BOOK FESTIVAL: Are you going to the Boston Book Festival this Saturday? I am moderating a panel called “The Whydunnit in Crime Fiction” at 10AM. If you’re there, make sure and say hello!

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J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series. Julie Hennrikus teaches and runs an arts service organization.

32 thoughts on “Networking for Introverts

  1. Saving for later to reblog.

    For now, wanted to share: you described me to a T. The older I get, the more I realize how introverted I really am. Like you, most would not know this about me. I am that quintessential, over-the-top presenter and instructor. I use social media for many purposes. I have the “Mary Lee Legacy” (named after my sweet grandmother) and talk with everyone I see.

    Yet…… I am exhausted by people and crave quiet time more often than I wish to reveal. I relish in this knowledge…. freed by my own understanding. 🙂 Thanks for the post! Now, I’m heading off to my high school classroom….. 150 teenagers. Here we go!

  2. Reblogged this on Deep Blonde Thoughts and commented:
    Funny and cute T shirt.

    Been there, done that with the pre-event plan and smiling 😀
    I still need to work on the small talk, tailoring it to the event and fellow participants.

    Yes, it’s so nice to get back to a quiet space :o) or home in order to recharge.

    Thanks,

    T

  3. People always look confused when i tell them i am an introvert. As the kid that always wanted a speaking part in our class assemblies in front of the school, as someone who has never really struggled to make friends, as the entry level office assistant who asked questions of much more important people in meetings, as a person who once auditioned for xfactor, I never came across as one. People tend to confuse introvertedness with shyness. You can be a shy extrovert or an outgoing introvert.

    I have to explain that the difference comes from where people get their energy from. Extroverts are energised by social interactions, Introverts are exhausted by them. My best friend says she can always tell when i have had enough at a party/social gathering because i suddenly get this look of extreme fatigue. That is when i make my excuses, go home, and hide in my bedroom with a good book.

  4. Excellent advice. I want so much to attend and enjoy events like this, but it is very difficult. Pushing myself to reach out to strangers and act as if I belong – all the while feeling like a fish out of water – it’s only become harder since I’ve finally acknowledged the degree of my introversion (after years of public extrovert-performing, as you say).

    Best wishes at the book fair and do let us know your day’s experiences.

  5. Introverts unite! Separately, and in our own homes!

    Networking is not something I’m good at, but thanks to WordPress and Twitter I’m reaching so many more people than I would if I had to engage in real life. I suck at small talk and making introductions. Leaving business cards in places like coffee shops is good too.

  6. I’ve found that a good way to start off a conversation is to ask a question that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. And it’s also good to listen for something that you have in common with the other person — a love of history, certain books you’ve both read, or a profession. That can eventually lead to making a real connection later.

  7. One of the best articles about introversion I have ever read. I admire you because I can not imagine myself (as a big introvert) in many of these situations.

    The most interesting idea for me:
    “The person you chat with about the stuffed dates–maybe she is best friends with someone you should meet.”

    Thank you!

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