Tips for Introverts – How to Start a Conversation at Networking Events

By Reyna Ramli

July 3, 2013 1 Comment

Marketing yourself to would-be employers can seem like a daunting task if you’re an introvert. Personal habits tend to translate into professional ones, so if you’re quiet around friends and family, chances are you’ll be quiet at the office, too. This can be a negative trait when it comes to advancing your career and speaking up about things like getting a raise or taking on more responsibility.

Still, as an introvert, you must learn to both communicate and network if you want to climb the career ladder. While being an introvert doesn’t automatically stop you from succeeding in life, it does limit the amount of social or networking opportunities in which you can comfortably engage. This in turn limits your job selection, as most companies seek individuals who can network as well as perform more solitary job functions.

Fortunately, the following tips will help you break out of your shell and join the networking arena:

Routinely step outside of your comfort zone

Introvert NetworkingIf you’re an introvert, chances are that you spend a lot of time avoiding social events – which could mean that you’re missing professional networking opportunities. One way to change this is to challenge yourself on a daily basis to step outside your own comfort zone. This could mean anything from saying hello to the cute stranger at the bus stop, to running a half marathon.

Depending on your skills and interests, you should choose activities that go against the grain of your normal routine. Hate the outdoors? Go camping with a friend or significant other. Feel intimidated by the intellectuals at your local book club? Re-read your favorite book, then plan a discussion group based around the themes found in the book (hey – you’ll already be an expert).

Engaging in activities that challenge or intimidate you on a personal level will help you overcome your professional fears, too. If you ever see leaders at work who seem fearless, just remember: everyone is afraid of something. Take a good look at what’s holding you back, and every day, do one small thing to overcome it.

This won’t lead to an overnight transformation, but a thousand tiny steps add up to a mile, and very soon your self-improvement choices will improve your professional life, too.

Just Do It

The old Nike slogan rings true for most of life, particularly at networking events such as trade shows and seminars. If you’ve been practicing stepping outside your personal comfort zone, then this next idea will be easier.

The old adage, “Fake it ’til you make it” applies in this situation. One of the most effective ways to deal with something that makes you nervous or uncomfortable is to fake enthusiasm and pretend to be comfortable with a situation, until that comfort becomes genuine.

People are often their own worst enemies. Introverts are especially prone to self-sabotage, and they may routinely over-analyze situations to the point where they become bigger in their minds than they really are.

To combat this, cast aside insecurity and pretend your worries don’t exist. Feel the fear and do it anyway, and eventually, you’ll find that the confidence becomes real, and both personal and professional connections become easier to make.

Help other introverts

If you’re an introvert and you find yourself alone at a professional networking event, you may find your mind racing. Why is nobody talking to me? Everyone’s avoiding me. Why did I even come here at all?

One great tip is to make a point of deliberately seeking out and helping other introverts at the event. They might be standing alone at the back of a large group, so make a tour of the room and search for one such person. Smile, hold out your hand, and introduce yourself, and half the battle is won. Moreover, if you can chat and you look like you’re having fun, you may very well attract other people who want to be part of your new group, too.

Being an introvert in the business world means your life will be a little tougher than most, but it doesn’t have to stop you from achieving all that you want in life. Seen in a positive light, introversion simply means you live comfortably within yourself, and employers can appreciate people who know themselves well.

Know that introspection can equal strength, and you’ll find it easier to strike up a conversation at your next networking event.

Reyna Ramli is a writer for CareerBliss, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Reyna loves writing on various topics, especially those related to careers, social media, and technology. Follow her on Twitter!

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One Comments to “Tips for Introverts – How to Start a Conversation at Networking Events”
  1. Great advice here. Speaking from experience the best way to tackle these professional networking events is to hit them head on. You may well be quite shy and introverted but business networking is one of the most effective strategies in modern business and it is up to you to seize any opportunity that presents itself.

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