As a lifetime member and the Head of Diversity for the Introverts Association, I can tell you that there is almost no worse situation for an introvert to be in than a networking event.
Small Talk? Lawd help me!
Feeling awkward and counting down the seconds until it’s time to go home? Not Today Satan!
But to all my fellow introverts, networking is a very necessary evil. I’m sorry, it just is. No matter your profession or even if you are still in school, the faster you learn to finesse a networking situation, the more opportunities that will come your way.
Now that I am settled here in Harlem, I want to make new friends, find my tribe, be involved and grow my circle. And that takes stepping out from behind my computer and putting myself in uncomfortable social situations.
I have also been doing some consulting to help launch a financial empowerment series for Black and Latina professional women, and that work has also thrusted me headfirst into networking in order to get the word out.
Now I want to share with you the tips that have absolutely worked wonders and have made networking easier for me.
TIP #1. SEND YOUR ALTER EGO
(Photoshop much? lol This head shot was taken at a networking event. Should I be offended that the photographer thought I needed this much Photoshop work?)
This one right here! When a friend shared this tip with me, it completely took the pressure off.
Casie would rather stay home and watch a movie instead of trying to meet new people at an event and fake smile with a group of strangers. I’m just not interested, BUT what if Casie didn’t have to go?
So instead I created my networking alter ego to go in my place – Casie Dionne. And she is confident, has lots of interesting things to talk about, engages with everyone she meets, introduces herself with confidence and most importantly has no fear of being judged.
Really, she is everything that is already inside of me but I am shy about bringing out. And putting on this “character” has made networking a lot less stressful.
TIP #2. SET A GOAL TO FOCUS ON
(Here I am in mid-speech giving the introductions to the ladies who attended the networking event Women Wealth Worth that I helped create)
My husband shared this tip with me and this is a great one because it gives you a more defined purpose instead of taking on the huge vague task of just go and meet people.
I set for myself a goal to accomplish at the event. For example, to exchange business cards with 5 people before going home or find 5 new people to introducing myself to and start a conversation.
It keeps me focused and I spend less time wondering if people are staring at me and then it releases me to go home after the mission is accomplished and I don’t feel like my time was wasted at the end of the night.
TIP #3. APPROACH THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ALONE
(I practice what I preach, here I am talking to a woman who was sitting by herself at a networking event)
I just hate it when I try to talk to someone who is already surrounded by a group people because I feel like a weirdo standing around waiting for my turn to speak. And when I try to just blend in with the group, I feel like I am sticking out even more.
So instead, I strike for the person standing alone. It’s so much easier to be able to go right in a start a conversation with a hello. And usually these folks are grateful that someone approached them first, wouldn’t you be? That first hello disarms them allowing for what makes for a pretty good conversation in my experience.
At the end of the day the more that I go to events and meet new people, the easier it will become. But until that day, these tips work for me and I hope they can be helpful to you too.
Question: What are some tips that have helped you become a more comfortable and confident networker?