I can unequivocally say that I absolutely abhor networking in its traditional sense. I am an introvert, with socialite tendencies, and the word networking conjures up thoughts of huge cold rooms, a sea of people in dull gray and blue suits, corny and unnecessary conversations with strangers and cheap wine. I mean, don’t get me wrong, free bites and cheap wine are enough for me to still consider attending a mixer or two, but I would be totally lying if I told you that I enjoyed it.
Being an introvert can hinder social and career networking opportunities to meet potential new clients or employers, so it will definitely behoove me to get over my disdain for putting myself out there at networking events. So, what exactly are the best tips for doing so?
Here are a few tips to help make the most of all networking opportunities, despite being an introvert.
1) Be Selective About Which Events Will Help Your Career.
Of course you may totally be a lost puppy at a networking mixer for hip hop producers if you are an introvert accountant. Though you may feel like a fish out of water being in a totally new setting, understand how selecting the right networking events and conferences may help you. Even if you are an introverted accountant at a hip hop conference, it is still a great way to procure clients who definitely will need your assistance in the future.
2) Set a Goal Before Attending.
Set a realistic goal of how many people you would like to meet or a particular executive you have been meaning to introduce yourself to. Most networking opportunities lend themselves to being in the same room with those who may open new doors for you, so set a specific goal of how many people and, specifically, who you have to meet before you can head home to watch TGIT.
Talking to strangers is so painful for most introverts. Relax though, it’s just talking. Taking the pressure off socially interacting with others may help in getting to meet new people who may assist in your career.
4) Actively Engage.
Do not do what is most comfortable to introverts, which is getting some food and a couple of cocktails and either sitting by yourself in a corner or talking to those you already know. Put on your best smile and actively engage those in attendance. Step out of your comfort zone and see how conversations may naturally unfold.
5) Follow Up.
I was such an introvert, I used to go to networking events, take note of all of the high profile people in attendance and send them a follow up email acknowledging how nice it was to meet them at a particular event, even if I had never introduced myself. I believed there were so many people there that they had met, it would probably escape them that they hadn’t actually met me. Most times these people would respond affirmatively and I would strike up conversation with them from there, without having to put myself in, what I deemed to be, an awkward situation of introducing myself and making small talk. Though I took the shy way out of getting acquainted with some people, it’s always best to follow up with those you ACTUALLY meet.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com . She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 10 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.