People are often surprised when I tell them I am an introvert because I am notoriously very involved in various organizations and activities. In college, I was on the board for countless clubs and organizations. In adult life, I am the City Manager for the NYC Lady Project. How can someone who appears to be so social, be an introvert? Well... I fake it. I fake it because I know how essential it is to build a robust network of friends in order to progress myself personally & professionally. Throughout time, I figured these five hacks for convincing myself to resist the couch & Netflix after a long day at work and instead, attend networking events.
1. Set your networking intention
One thing introverts hate the most is making small talk. It’s much easier to break through that hurdle when you have a clear intention for why you are attending networking events. Your intention is the conversation starter. Are you trying to grow your business? Starting a new creative project? Or just looking to make some new friends? What are you hoping to gain from attending?
When I was starting the NYC chapter of the Lady Project, one of my strategies for getting the word out there was attending other women’s networking events. I knew we would have similar missions and be able to find like-minded women who would be interested in joining. At that time, I would attend at least 1 to 2 events a week to recruit potential members and partners. It was much more motivating to attend events when I had an objective to achieve.
2. Set your single event goal
Once you have set your intention, then you are able to set a measurable goal that gives you something tangible to work towards while you’re at the event, and a clear stopping point for when you can allow yourself to go home. Set a minimum amount of new people you must meet and talk about your intention with (i.e. I need to meet 4 new people, tell them about my project, and determine an actionable next step for how we can work together).
3. Take the focus away from yourself
Sometimes, being an introvert means you don’t like being the center of attention. If that’s the case, take the focus off yourself, and shift it towards the person you’re meeting. There’s a common misconception that networking is all about grabbing those business cards and finding people to help you, but it’s a two-way street. The magic question is "How can I help you?". The conversation is sustained by your curiosity in what they’re trying to achieve and you actively listening to see how your skills/connections can be of value for them. Do you know someone you could introduce them to? Do you have a resource you use that could be helpful to them?
4. Bring an extroverted friend
The classic wing-woman trick in singles bar scene can absolutely be of use in the networking sense too. As a borderline introvert, my energy is not necessarily drained by being around people, rather it’s drained by having to carry the conversation. I am actually quite energized by being around people and I really enjoy listening to other people talk. With that, I enjoy having an extroverted wing-woman with me at events to help me start conversations with people I would never approach myself, and make some new friends by association.
5. Be the one in charge
My last trick for building & maintaining such a robust network is by choosing to volunteer for the organization that facilitates the networking. Being in charge and a part of the behind the scenes gives me a sense of control and purpose to be at the event. Being the one in charge / hosting the event, gives me the opening line of “So, how did you find out about our event / organization?” along with other types of questions that assist me in helping them better connect with the organization as well as understand their needs from the organization.
In closing, effective networking for introverts comes down to finding a reason to give-a-damn about meeting new people. For those of us in which this does not come naturally, it takes conscious work to get out there, but if you have a clear intention for WHY you are needing to meet more people, the rest is a lot easier.
Joy Liu is an Advertising Account Executive at Burns Group. Joy moved to NYC immediately after completing her degree in Marketing Communications at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, where she met Lady Project founders Sierra Barter & Julie Sygiel. Joy's favorite things include eating / drinking al fresco, personality tests (INTJ), friends' dogs, and aimlessly wandering this marvelous city.