You hear all the time that, in order for you to get a leg up in practically any industry, it is inevitable that the time will come in your career where you must network.
The word “networking” alone can cause you to shudder, as it requires you putting yourself out there, likely to strangers, and make yourself seem worthy enough for a connection. For an introvert, the mere thought breeds anxiety.
The good news is that there are ways—even for introverts—to network, minus the discomfort that generally comes along with it.
1. Get Over Yourself
You may be surprised to discover that most people—if not all people—hate networking just as much as you do. Find comfort in knowing that you’re all in the same boat. Sure, some may be better at it, but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t just as uncomfortable. Take solace in knowing that you already have something in common with about 85% of the people you’re forced to network with— and that it is likely that they would rather be doing something else too.
2. Be Yourself
This sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you’re funny, awkward, quirky, quiet, outspoken, nervous, anxious—be that! Being your unique self is part of your appeal. It’s your secret weapon. People are enticed by individualism. There is a reason why you’re all in the room; your common thread is why you’re there. What sets you apart is the “you” that you already are, so embrace it.
3. If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again
Let’s say you went to a mixer for accountants in your area, but you didn’t make any real connections on the first try. That’s totally okay. Just having your face there better positions you for your interactions the next go round, as you’re no longer a stranger. You, as well as others, now look familiar. Recognition alone can be your conversation piece. Just asking, “Hey—didn’t I see you here last time?” can lead to making a connection.
4. Know Someone Who Knows Someone
Networking can happen by way of a simple introduction from people who are already in your network. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend, family member, or colleague to introduce you to who you’d like to know. If attending an event, be encouraged to bring an extroverted friend along. Position them to make an assist, and you slam dunk it.
5. Know What You Have to Offer
A lot of the apprehension in networking is feeling awkward about pursing connections for the sole purpose of getting what you want from someone. Being able to offer something in return can ease that tension. Sure, you may want to be connected to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but why would he/she want to be connected to you? Find out why and utilize it.
Put these networking tips to practice with executives, decision makers, and influencers this Labor Day weekend, at the 2016 Black Enterprise Golf & Tennis Challenge, September 1–4, at the PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Register now!