What’s your reaction to that word?
If you’re anything like me, it might be an eye roll and a mutter of ‘if I must’.
It’s not my favourite thing in the world. There, I’ve admitted it.
At the end of a hard day, as an introvert, I crave a little quiet and alone time, not a noisy, hot room full of strangers and small talk.
Meeting new people is great. But so many people at once, in an intense setting, usually when I’m a bit tired already, is overwhelming.
But. And it’s a big but…
My success as a copywriter, editorial manager and trainer for charities depends on (you’ve guessed it)…networking. Never mind having the perfect website, or using social media well – getting out and meeting people face to face at sector events brings in the most business.
It’s my new year’s resolution to go to more events and meet-ups, make the most of them when I’m there, and turn 2016 into my best work year ever.
Do you want to do the same? Below are my tried and tested top tips on making networking work if you’re an introvert like me.
You might want to test them out at the very friendly Charity Meetup on Thursday 4 February 2016.
1. Weigh up costs vs benefits
For introverts, networking can be enjoyable, bit it’s always tiring (as opposed to invigorating for extroverts). Make sure the event you’re going to is worth the cost in terms of making useful and interesting connections.
Look at all the events over the next month, or even year, and pick the best. Be honest about the number you’re comfortable with. You don’t have to go to every single thing – but you should go to some, and put all your energy into them.
Go with a list of what you want to get out of the event – how many people you want to talk to, or specific people you’d like to meet. That way, you can leave feeling like you’ve achieved something.
2. Get in the right headspace
I am absolutely useless at networking when I am stressed and distracted by other things. So I try to plan carefully so I don’t do it when I’ve got a packed week.
If I go to an event fresh and calm, with the socialising part of my brain ‘switched on’, I know I’ll make a much better impression, enjoy myself far more, and make better connections.
3. Don’t kid yourself
You’re not an extrovert, and there’s no need to act like one to network successfully (check out this brilliant TED talk by Susan Cain on the power of introverts).
Forget holding court in a big group, capturing everyone’s attention, and trying to get round everyone at the event. Instead play to your own strengths. I enjoy (and am best at) in-depth one on one or small group conversations, where I can hear about someone’s interesting work – so I do my best to engineer this.
Look for other introverts who might like to do the same!
4. Remember you’ll enjoy it when you get there
For all this talk about how I find networking challenging, and how it’s never my favourite thing on my to-do list, I almost always enjoy it – and meet really nice and interesting people – when I get there.
Sometimes…I even have fun (promise!)
Give networking a try
I’d love to see you at the Charity Meetup on Thursday 4 February 2016. It’s an event for all charity staff and freelancers, with just the right mix of networking activities, speakers and relaxed chatting. A good place to start your introverted networking for 2016!
Jennifer Campbell is a copywriter, editorial project manager and trainer working only with charities. She has worked with more than 60 of the biggest not-for-profit organisations in the UK and worldwide.