Power Networking Blog

Thursday, 04 August 2016 06:46

How does an introvert network successfully, with regards to career?

Nervous WomanThere would seem to me to be at least three separate elements that need addressed in answering this commonly asked question i.e. 1) introversion 2) networking successfully & 3) career.

There seems to be a belief, at least in North America, that being an extravert in the business world, is better than being an introvert. Extravert is good, introvert is bad. Or it would seem that many extraverts would have us believe this and many of my fellow introverts have bought into the myth. Introversion vs extraversion is merely a way to describe where you get your energy from. You might say it is how you recharge your batteries.

Extraverts thrive on activity and being part of and participating in larger groups of people. Some love the crowd scene and being the centre of attention. Good for them! Introverts on the other hand prefer solitary activities, certainly quieter ones. Its hard to recharge when the extraverted world is focused on hustle and bustle. As an introvert, I require a certain amount of ‘me time’ to recharge and participate in the numerous creative activities I have underway at any given time. I will go on record as saying that I would much rather party with an extravert though!

When it comes to networking, be it for business, career or pleasure, I don’t think the issue to focus on is whether one is an introvert or an extravert. The real focus should be on shyness.

You can be a shy introvert. Most likely, many introverts are shy but that’s not a given. There are also shy extraverts. One example that I learned about really surprised me. The late Freddy Mercury, the lead singer for the rock band, Queen was probably the most extraverted stage performer that I have ever seen. When the stage lights were on him and he was performing, he came alive and energized. Yet, it has been reported that when Freddy was in a social situation, meeting people for the first time, he was quite shy. In a social networking event he would gravitate towards people that he knew rather than walk up to strangers. Sound familiar?

The big pharmaceutical companies would have us believe that shyness is an illness i.e. social phobia and they just happen to have a high priced pill to cure you of your illness. You don’t cure shyness. It isn’t an illness. You can however reduce the impact that it has upon your life and the limitations that it creates for you.

Shyness, simply put, is merely a deficit of social skills and the accompanying self-confidence required to use those skills. Shyness, isn’t a one-size-fits-all condition. It is a fear and is a learned behaviour. It is a conditioned response. We weren’t born with it. It can be a fear of the judgement of others or even the fear of judging yourself.

Shyness can be placed on a continuum with being very mildly shy, perhaps some occasional apprehension in a social situation, on one end of the continuum and being terrified of social situations on the other. Only you know where you would fall on the continuum. It’s your shyness, you own it or perhaps it owns you!

I use the term suffer rather than experience, in reference to shyness because it can be quite painful and debilitating for some people. Shyness can cripple you from taking action(s) that others do with apparent ease.  Anxiety and stress can prevent you from moving your business forward. The good news is that this can be reduced if not eliminated!

Networking is an acquired skill acquired from training, practice and experience. To be successful in networking you need to develop the right mind and skill set. While you are thinking about becoming a better networker you have to also think about why you are networking in the first place. Expanding your network increases the possibility for referrals to come your way.

Power Networking for Shy People: Tips & Techniques for Moving from Shy to Sly! by Rae StonehouseAs a shy networker myself, often crippled with fear in social gatherings, I decided to do something about it. The result was my book, Power Networking for Shy People: Tips & Techniques for Moving from Shy to Sly! In it I outline a system for introverts and shy introverts to level the playing field when it comes to networking for business. The often dreaded meeting and talking to another person, face-to-face, is only a small part of the process. Yet it is likely the part that gives us the most stress.

With on-line resources available to all of us, there is much we can do to prepare for a networking session. I have identified three phases to a networking opportunity: 1) Pre Networking Phase 2) Live Face to Face Networking Phase & 3) Post Networking Phase.

I’m not going to elaborate here on all of the steps required to increase your self-confidence and become a better networker. I have outlined a systematic approach in the book. Other contributors to answering this question have provided some good suggestions. The problem is that the suggestions can be overcoming to a shy networker. The old adage comes to mind “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer being “one bite at a time.” If you are going to change your life-long behaviours you need to do it in a systematic approach to be successful in the long run.

The original question placed the clause “with regards to career” at the end of it. The answer to this is determined by where one is in their career cycle.

I’m at the end of my career as a Registered Nurse. I’m transitioning into retirement. I work in a small community healthcare facility. My shifts tend to be afterhours and on weekends. This takes me away from the larger network, an organization of some 18000 employees. I also don’t live in the community that I work in. My career network tends to be limited to my facility. If I was in an earlier stage of my career or perhaps mid career, this would be quite limiting. At present, it isn’t.

My business life is a different story. I have to actively get out there and network in my business community. I have to make connections, connect other colleagues and teach my network what I have to offer and how I can help solve their problems.

For someone new in their career or wanting to take it to the next level or perhaps in a different direction, networking is imperative. The old saying used to be “Its not who you know, its who knows you.” This has been amended to “Its not who you know, its who knows you know!”

Many of us have an aversion to self-promotion. It tends to go along with the lack of self-confidence experienced with shyness. Yet, this is exactly what we have to do. Our network has to be educated as to what it is that we have to offer. We have to market ourselves, similar to what a business would do.

Linkedin is a great tool for self-marketing. When it originally started it was like posting your resume on steroids. You have to look at it differently nowadays. Employers and businesses are searching on-line for solutions to their problems. Before, one would outline all the activities and skills that they possess in the hope that a perspective employer would put the dots together and say “Hey, it looks like this person has all the skills that I need and their experience will help us.”

Not so now! You need to showcase your experiences to reflect how you can solve specific problems and display examples of how you have done so in the past. This isn’t the time to be bashful. If you have earned recognition for your work or have solved a major problem, promote it. Somebody looking at your Linkedin profile is more likely to say “I wonder if you can solve my problem too?”

The secret to being a successful networker, whether you are a shy introvert or an outgoing extravert is to have a system in place that works for you. Self-confidence is increased in small increments. Celebrate your successes. Every networking encounter won’t be a success. So what? That’s life! Move on to the next one and learn what works and what doesn’t. Look around you to see what other, apparently more effective networkers are doing and try emulating some of the tactics that they use.

Good luck with your networking. If we happen to meet at a gathering come on up and introduce yourself to me. In fact, perhaps that might be a very powerful first step to take. “Hi there! I’m Rae.”

As answered on Quora.com

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