The Introvert's Guide to Networking
Let me start by first clearing the air. Yes. I am clearing the air and going on record to say -- clears throat -- NO ONE LIKES TO NETWORK! And I do mean no one. No one and nobody likes to do this because networking is a business card exchange, it’s transactional, it’s take-take-take, it’s quantity not quality and it’s cold and surface. So whether you are an extrovert or an introvert—no one likes to network.
So now that we are on the same page, let me continue by saying that this is not a guide to networking. I know I kind of lied to get you to read this, but if I were to title this article the introvert's guide to connecting you would be confused. Very, very confused because no one refers to networking as connecting. No one and nobody. Everyone refers to it as networking but there’s a difference. A BIG difference.
Connecting is story sharing, it’s people caring, it’s relational and reciprocal, it’s give-give-give, it’s quality not quantity, it’s warm and deep and most importantly it’s way different than networking. It’s different and I want you to walk away from this article knowing the difference and knowing that you do not have to be an extrovert like me to connect with peeps. So let’s get ready, let’s get set and let’s connect.
Ps...the tips below are for those wanting to connect and build genuine, authentic relationships with peeps, not those wanting to network for the sake of using peeps. When you connect and build your network prior to needing peeps your network and support system will be there when you are in need. Capisce?
1. Have One-on-Ones. Often times extroverts, like me, are led to believe that introverts don’t like to connect and meet peeps – but they do. They just tend to prefer to do this one-on-one and not in groups. So my advice to you is to connect one-on-one. Meet people for coffee, lunch, dinner or brunch to chit and chat. Matter of fact, I do this all the time – like weekly – and it’s fairly easy. I start with the people I know, professionally and personally, and then I ask the people I know to recommend other folks. And just like that my connections grow and grow and grow. Now I am up to grabbing coffee or tea with one new person a week. So try it and see and meet, meet, meet.
2. Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to connect with people, and when I say volunteer, I don’t just mean what you typically hear when you hear the word volunteer. When most people hear volunteer they think nonprofit and philanthropic—and although they could always use our time, talents and treasures—there’s plenty of other organizations and associations that could use these things too. There’s boards, camps, clubs, churches, clients, cohorts, colleges, committees, conferences, events, family, friends, fellowships, fraternities, sororities, hobbies, masterminds, military, professional, sports, travel and work groups to name a few. And there’s so many things you can volunteer to do. You can volunteer to take the lead on something or volunteer to do the thing no one else wants to do. This will give you quick exposure too and another opportunity to meet folks that are new.
3. Mentor and be Mentored. When people hear the word mentor, they get scared. Not because they don’t care but because of the time they have to spare. Mentor has become synonymous with time commitment and for this reason, many people are starting to resent it. But mentorship can be whatever two peeps decide it should be. It can be a check-in here or a cup of coffee there. It can be a weekly, monthly or even quarterly frequency. Again, it can be anything two peeps decide it should be. So call it something else if you want, pick your frequency and get to mentoring. You can mentor someone you know or someone new and you can even mentor someone that works with you. And while mentoring, you should be mentored too. So just do it. No more excuses and no more shooting mentorship the deuces. Just do it.
4. Become an SME. It’s important to note that connecting isn’t always about you being proactive to meet peeps—connecting is also about you creating opportunities for folks to meet thee. And one way to do that is to become an SME. An SME is a subject matter expert and it’s something you should strive to be. Being an SME is a great way to meet peeps because when you are an SME people seek you out for your expertise. I’ve always been known for my connecting and socializing expertise, so when people seek resources, places to be and people to see—they seek me. What subject, what matters and what expertise can you share with the world? Coaching, investing, exercising, training—the list goes on and on and on. So identify it, certify it and don’t be quiet about it because the more you spread the news the more you will be introduced.
5. Drop A Line. Make a new friend by dropping a line from time to time. I drop lines when people get promotions, when people get awards, when people graduate, when people join boards, when people get married and when people expand their family. If I don’t personally know the person, I drop lines via social media. If I personally know the person, I drop lines via email, text, phone calls, cards and sticky notes. But regardless of the medium, the message is always the same—congrats on such and such. And like dropping lines, you should also drop knowledge from time to time, like articles, resources, information and sources, because everyone has goals they are trying to reach and you can meet new peeps by helping them achieve.
6. Be A Connector. Be a connector. Be a me. Be a person that introduces peeps to peeps. A person that introduces others to others that others should meet, and sooner than later people will return the favor. That’s it. This way is that simple and that quick.
Well introverted friends we have come to the end, BUT there’s a lot more where the above came from in my new book Hey Friend: 100 Ways to Connect with 100 People in 100 Days. It’s a must-read, a fun read and the ultimate guide to meeting peeps. Much luck on your connection journeys and don’t take it too seriously. Navigating an extroverted world as an introvert may sound like a lot but it can be done. Just breath, relax and have some fun!