Linda: Career networking tips for introverts and extroverts
Our personalities play a huge part in our career journey. What we find challenging, enjoyable, confronting, and comforting in the workplace can all have a lot to do with where we sit on the scale of introversion and extroversion. Never is this more evident than when we’re thrown into a networking scenario.
Whether you’re attending a conference with hundreds of people or taking a handful of new clients out for dinner, networking presents challenges for both introverted and extroverted people. The following tips will help you to understand your personality and channel it for networking success.
Not sure about personality types or what yours might be? You might like to view my Beyond the Books online series webinar ‘How to channel your personality type for success’.
Extroverts draw energy from interacting with others. They thrive off teamwork and collaboration, and like taking action to make things happen. As an extrovert, you process information quickly and can reflect and react almost simultaneously. While your gregarious nature means you’re more inclined to feel comfortable when networking, it can be easy for an extrovert to appear overbearing or dominant if you’re not mindful of your energy.
Simple networking tips for extroverts
- Follow the 60/40 rule. Listen 60% of the time and speak or ask questions 40% of the time. Use open-ended questions to engage others in the conversation and then listen and take a genuine interest in their responses.
- Stay focused on the person you’re speaking with. Be mindful of your eye contact and don’t be looking around for the next person you want to meet. While there may be a lot of energy in the room, try to draw as much as you can from this one conversation.
- Get comfortable with pauses. As an extrovert you’ll naturally want to say anything to fill the silence, but this can seem dominant to others in the conversation. Embrace pauses and give other people a chance to jump in and participate, rather than always steering the discussion yourself.
- Speak thoughtfully. Your great communication skills and confidence in group situations can make it very easy to slip into over-sharing mode, so be mindful to remain professional and practise exercising a filter.
- Be aware of your body language and presence. You thrive off energy and conversation, but others in the group might find overzealous body language or boisterous laughter inauthentic and even a bit obnoxious.
- Acknowledge the value in other personality styles. Use your confidence in networking scenarios to approach those who may not feel quite so at ease. Don’t overlook someone just because it might take a bit more effort to get the conversation underway.
Introverts get energy from thinking and reflecting, often in solitude or with just a few people they know well. You process information more slowly than extroverts, taking time to reflect and gain clarity before reacting. As an introvert it’s normal that you might find the idea of networking uncomfortable and intimidating, but it’s important to not let your reserved nature prevent you from making important connections.
Simple networking tips for introverts
- Embrace online networking. In-person scenarios can be challenging, so establish an active presence on Twitter and a strong LinkedIn profile and use these online platforms to interact at your own pace.
- Network one-on-one. Where possible, suggest one-on-one catch ups over coffee, rather than big events or group settings. This will give you a chance to demonstrate your keen listening skills and develop a strong connection without feeling overwhelmed.
- Bring a friend. Can’t avoid a big gathering of strangers? See if you can take a friend, co-worker or even an acquaintance along. If not, see if you can suss out the guest list for any names you might recognise. The peace of mind of knowing at least one other person in the room can make the event less nerve-wracking, particularly if it’s someone more extroverted than yourself who can help you to initiate conversations.
- Don’t forget old contacts in your quest for new ones. Introverts prefer to know fewer people well, rather than have many acquaintances, but the key to a strong network is to sustain these relationships over time. Make the effort to keep in touch, even just via email, and maintain your professional relationships so that it doesn’t seem like you’re only in contact when you need something!
- Come prepared for small talk. If you can, try to find out who will be at the event/meeting and research their professional background (LinkedIn is a great place to start!) so you have an idea of what you might have in common. Having some questions prepared can help you to navigate the awkwardness of initial chit-chat with confidence.
- Embrace your personality. Don’t try to be the centre of attention if that’s just not you. Embrace your natural listening skills, learn about others, and then surprise them with an impressive follow up email or LinkedIn request once you’ve had time to reflect on the interaction.
As you can see, there are things to be mindful of when approaching a networking situation, no matter where you sit on the scale of introversion and extroversion. By understanding your personality type and having strategies up your sleeve, you can build strong professional connections and still be in your comfort zone (or not too far out of it). Good luck with your networking ventures and remember to be yourself and embrace your personality!