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5 Networking Tips for Introverts to Put You at Ease

Introvert in Full-Body Sweater

Did you know 85% of today’s jobs are landed through networking? The old adage still reigns true: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Needless to say, networking is essential as you build your career.

Unfortunately, though, networking does not come naturally for many, and does not feel natural for most. This can feel especially true if you know yourself to be an introvert. 

So how can an introvert overcome the fear associated with networking? Here are a few networking for introverts tips to take the pressure off and help you be your best self.

Tip #1: Say “yes.”

As soon as you receive an invitation to a networking event, your inherent reaction as an introvert is probably to RSVP “no.” Don’t let your mind fool you. If you remain caged in your comfort zone, you’re only putting yourself at a disadvantage.

The best life changes happen when you leave your comfort zone. Do yourself a favor and when in doubt, RSVP “yes.”

Tip #2: Make a solo entrance.

After polling a number of co-workers, their overall greatest apprehension was going to an event alone.

Lo and behold, a large secret to success when networking is to go alone. It's about creating, establishing, and developing new relationships. So, steer clear of the cliques and take the pressure off by keeping in mind that everyone at a networking event is there for the sole purpose of meeting new people, too. It won't come off as a surprise for you to be flying solo, and it will leave you unattached and ready to mingle. 

Tip #3: Keep a few conversation starters handy.

If you haven't had a lot of practice, striking up conversation with a complete stranger can seem challenging. We promise it’s easier than you think. Small talk about the weather and venue are always in style, but can only get you so far when it comes to making real connections. These conversation starters should give you a little more mileage: 

  • Offer a genuine compliment. There’s bound to be something you like about another person, whether it’s their outfit, an accessory or something they've said in conversation with another person at the event. A genuine compliment puts a person at ease and immediately creates a liking for you. 
  • Ask what they were hoping to get out of the event. Most networking events are organized around a speaker or workshop. What was it that caught your fellow attendees' attention when they showed up today? This will get them to open up about more than just where they work and what they do. Their answer to this question will also reveal to you what interests or challenges are top of mind for them. 
  • Flat out admit that you hate networking. This conversation starter works best when you approach other introvert lone wolves in the room. If you spy someone who looks like they're struggling to strike up conversation, they'll be happy to agree with you on your distaste for networking. 
  • Find out where they work and what they do. When in doubt, this basic question will get the job done. From there, ask lost of questions to keep the conversation going. 

Tip #4: Listen, then talk.

It's a natural human inclination to enjoy talking about yourself. Keep this nugget of truth in mind when you approach networking. Once you've started the conversation, most of the battle is won.

Ironically, introverts tend to be inherently good listeners, so let this work in your favor to establish meaningful and sound relationships as you network.

Tip #5: Keep service above self.

To get the absolute most out of networking events, you need to show up to events with the mindset of service above self. In other words, ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network! (Check out this case in point.)

You are there to help other attendees and can do so by offering relevant advice (if you’re qualified), by being a connector with someone else you know who could benefit your new pal, or simply by asking “what can I do for you.”  You’d be amazed at the number of doors one simple selfless question such as the last will open for you.

The key to networking for introverts is practice. By forcing yourself to get out there, you'll gain confidence and begin to feel more natural. Eventually, it'll feel like second nature to whip up a conversation with anyone at anytime. You might even start to enjoy it!

We hope the next time you find an event invitation in your inbox, you feel a little more equipped to rise to the challenge of networking as an introvert because of these tips. We know you have it in you! 

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Editor's Note: Originally published 3/3/16; updated 11/22/19.

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