Networking tips for introverts

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In college I was such an introvert that when I went to parties (I had to be dragged) I brought a book. It was a lonely existence, but the pain of having to talk to people in an unstructured environment was too much.

So I was shocked a few years ago when someone told me, “Job hunting is easier for you than most people because you could sell yourself to anyone.”

That comment was testament to the fact that I had recognized you can’t get what you want in life without networking. Even though my natural instinct is to sit home and read, I worked very hard to learn how to talk to people. Luckily for me, books are a great resource in this regard.

I read everything I could find. I read that most introverts are scared they'll say something stupid or have nothing to say at all (both applied to me). So I read up on ways to feel self-confident in a room full of strangers and come up with things to say when I felt intimidated. (Here's a recommendation: You are the Message by Roger Ailes.)

I learned that people who are good at networking are interested in other people. And they are good storytellers. After that, I was able to go almost anywhere and talk with people. Good talkers recognize that there’s something interesting about every person, and it’s their job to get them talking about it. But you can't only bombard people with questions. You also need to reveal things about yourself. The best way is by telling fun and interesting stories that make you look good.

Not everyone can do this, though. After I had been dating my husband for about six months, I watched him print out a spreadsheet of names and phone numbers. “What's this?” I asked.

“It's my networking list,” he replied.

“But you never call anyone, ever.”

“I know, but networking is important, and I read that the first step is to have a good list.”

It was an extremely detailed list. For every name, there was a phone number and description of the person. For example, “Bennie Conover. High school music teacher — dead.” Or my favorite, “Penelope Trunk. Girlfriend.”

But my husband is an introvert, someone who loves details but hates talking to people. If you’re similarly introverted, you can still network even though you’ll never get excited about going to parties and learning interesting things about each person in the room. These tips can help.

Use email. Nowadays, you don’t have to speak face to face with contacts. You can write and rewrite your message until it’s right. And you don’t have to worry about saying something stupid because the person caught you off guard. Of course, you lose the intimacy of a personal meeting, but sometimes you can compensate for this by sending an extra e-mail or two.

Read everything. When something is published about someone you know, send a congratulatory e-mail. Incessant reading means getting gossip without having to gossip. Just be sure to act on it.

Go to parties rather than dinners. If you’re like most introverts, the problem isn’t the quantity of people, it's having to show up at all. You can kill more birds with one stone by making one of your rare social appearances in front of lots of people. And think ahead: Have a few things prepared and ready to say to other partygoers.

Write for trade publications. While you aren’t actually talking to people, you’re reaching them, making a point and hopefully being memorable. A reader may even write back to you: Miracle! You have just met someone without leaving your home.

Help others. For instance, send leads to jobseekers you know. You don't have to talk to them, but they'll remember the favor and view you as a friend. My husband maintains a list of specialized job sites that he sends to friends who have recently lost jobs. They're grateful for his help and the time it saves them, while my husband is grateful that he only has to research job sites instead of having to talk to people.

Send New Year's cards. Sending cards at year-end is tantamount to saying “You’re someone I care about.” So send cards generously. If you can, include a short note to each person. Sure, it's a struggle to find things to say, but since it's early November, you have two months to think. Write a few cards each day, and when you're stuck for words, remember the key to good networking: Be interested in other people and talk about yourself in interesting ways. Networking is one of those long-range, money-in-the-bank types of things; you never know when something you say will have a great return. So introverts, start writing!

20 replies
  1. Deliza
    Deliza says:

    I’ve been looking for sociallizing tips for the introverted and found few to which comes without a charge. Your words were helpful. thanks

  2. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Genius post…great practical tips, and some laughs as well. I can’t believe this treasure trove of past posts. I’ll have to work my way through it.

  3. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    I love this post. I never brought books to parties in college because I never went to parties. But there were more than a few gatherings I went to where I would try and find the nearest book or magazine to rescue me!

  4. Craig March
    Craig March says:

    I do find some of your posts hit and miss for me but this one is excellent. The description of how introverts feel toward social situations is spot on, and the tips for dealing with that are also.

  5. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Hi, my compliments for your post! I just read it and have to say I recognise a lot of myself in it, especially sometimes not knowing what to say or being scared of saying something stupid. (I’m both extremely introverted and extremely extraverted, depending on the situation).

    I would also like to compliment you very much with your poll. I love what you write about people that have been in therapy and completely agree with it! In my opinion, there is way too few understanding for it in the general population.
    Actually, I have been through an extremely hard time myself in which I didn’t go to therapy, but was ‘my own therapist’ as I call it. Since there are a lot of introverts here I wonder if there are people among you(Penelope and the others that read this blog) that deal with big issues in a similar way?

    By ‘my own therapist’ I mean that instead of talking to a therapist or anyone else about my problem, I try to figure it out by myself by withdrawing, thinking and reflecting. I don’t stop this untill I’ve solved it (even it it would take me ten years) because I refuse to live my life in a way less that the best that it can be and I sure as hell don’t want an old issue to keep hurting me every time it’s triggered.

    My experience is that people in general show way more understanding towards people who act out, talk to a therapist or just move on with their lifes as if nothing has happened (how many times haven’t I heard that I should ‘go talk to someone’, ‘get help’ or ‘just go out or go shopping again because that is more fun’) than towards people who withdraw and try to deal with their own problem by themselves (as long as it takes untill you solved it, which can be very long if the issue is big).

    This lack of understanding however often makes me feel as if I’m the only one who deals with problems this way. Often I’ve heard that ‘I think too much and should look at the positive'(only in times of a big problem, in general I’m very positive). I on the other hand think that it is good to look at was is wrong in your life and to set yourself the goal to not rest before you have dealt with it. That I don’t see as ‘being negative’ but as trying to eliminate the negative from your life so you can make it as perfect as it can be, and as not finding it an option to live you life in a way less than the best that it can be.

    That’s why I’m happy to hear from you (Penelope) that you find people who go to therapy (in other words, who face the hurtful things in their life and try to solve them instead of denying and ‘keep partying’)interesting, and that you think being committed to your goals is a positive thing. I get the impression that the general population thinks it’s negative to stick to such a goal too long and that you should just let go and party, ’cause else you miss out on so much’.

    So, I know it was a very long response :D, but in addition to Penelope’s poll I would like to know if there are also people among you that withdraw in times of big problems and are ‘their own therapist’ instead of talking to someone else (I really mean in times of big issues that other people would go to therapy with). I personally couldn’t figure out a problem by talking to someone else and would like to know if there are more people like that.

  6. Brad
    Brad says:

    I agree. These tips are really good. With regards to what Jessica wrote. I sometimes try to be my own therapist by reflecting on things. Other times I share with my close friends and get a different perspective on things. I think both are important.

  7. Jacki Welsh
    Jacki Welsh says:

    Thanks for posting this Penelope. Granted, it was a while ago now, but it has still helped me out. I’m still trying to own my introverted personality, and this has helped me figure out ways to stay on top of that. Thanks.

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