Posted by: careerworks | January 16, 2012

Networking Tips for Shy People

Networking is the key to success in business and job hunting. It helps you find jobs, recruit talent, win new customers and discover investors who’ll support your ideas.

But networking is tough for shy people. They view it as insincere at best, manipulative at worst. They avoid networking for a variety of reasons including lack of confidence, fear of rejection and a sense of unworthiness.

If they could just relate to others more easily, if they just possessed more self-confidence and weren’t such self-conscious wallflowers, the world would be their oyster, and schmoozing would be so much easier.

It is possible for shrinking violets and shy guys to master the skill of networking. They just have to realize, that successful networking is all about building sincere relationships based on mutual interests. They have to network their way to success.

If you’re struggling to meet new people, here’s some common-sense advice for increasing your networking skills.

Start Small

If approaching people you don’t know intimidates you, begin your networking efforts by seeking out familiar faces, such as relatives and friends. You can do a significant amount of valuable networking without ever having to make a cold call. A series of successful conversations will make you more confident in the process.

A logical next step after talking with friends and family is to pursue individuals who are part of your alumni network. It exists for the purpose of networking, so contacting an alum out of the blue shouldn’t feel like a cold call. After all, they joined the network to make and take such calls.

Stop Apologizing

Introverts and inexperienced networkers often apologize when asking for an individual’s help because they see networking as an imposition, not as relationship building. Don’t feel like you’re asking someone to do them a favor. Apologizing merely demonstrates your lack of confidence. You don’t have to apologize for asking for help. You don’t have to apologize for wanting to learn more about the individual with whom you’re networking. One day you may be able to help them out.

Tap into Your Primal Instincts

Sometimes, when an introvert hears that he’s not inherently a loner, that humans are innately social creatures, the realization helps him emerge from his shell of shyness.

Smile: This is such a simple, basic rule, yet people just don’t think about it. They’re so focused on needing to network at a conference that they don’t realize they’re walking around with a scowl on their face. Scowling expressions are forbidding. People are more likely to warm up to someone who says good morning with a broad smile.

Ask a question: Joining a group engaged in conversation can be awkward. The best way to do so is to pose a question to the group after getting the gist of the conversation. You build your credibility by asking a question, and for a shy person, that’s a much easier way to engage than by barging in with an opinion.

Listen:  If you can get people to discuss their experiences and opinions—and listen with sincere interest—you can have a great conversation with someone without having to say much at all.

Business cards: Always have them handy. They’re an effective way for you to leave your name behind so that people remember who you are.

Say the person’s name: People like to hear their own name. So when you meet someone, use his name in conversation. Doing so makes the other person feel more comfortable, like you really know him and he knows you.

Be Yourself

Many introverted professionals think they have to act like an extrovert in networking situations. While you do have to make an effort to be more gregarious than normal, you shouldn’t be artificial.

Be the authentic, humble, shy person you are. It can be endearing. Don’t try to be something you’re not. In other words, it’s OK if you’re a little awkward. Just don’t keep apologizing for it.

Tap into Your Passions

Join clubs and attend events that relate to an interest or activity you enjoy. If you’re a budding oenophile, attend a wine tasting at your local liquor store. Eager reader? Join a book club. Can’t get enough of the pigskin? Attend a football game or watch one at a bar.

Just because you’re a technology professional doesn’t mean you should only go to technology conferences to network. That person sitting in front of you [at the game] might have a job you always dreamed about or work in a company that you want to get into. You could sit behind them the whole season and never know that unless you initiate a conversation.

The advantage of engaging in activities you enjoy with other people is that it makes conversation so much easier. So while you’re analyzing that vintage wine, discussing the plot of new best seller or sharing game stats, ask the person with whom you’re chatting for her name and about her work. There’s no reason not to do so if you’re having an amiable conversation.

Attending gatherings where you feel comfortable helps you put your best foot forward. Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission.

If you do find yourself in a room full of strangers at a conference or party go straight to the stuff that interests you. When you talk about things you’re passionate about, you will light up and appear more engaging. You don’t have to find a shared interest [to connect with others]. You just have to share your interests. So be sure to ask the people around you what they do in their spare time.

Ask for Introductions

Shy people attending conferences tend to find one person with whom they spend all their time for the duration of the event. Although settling in with one person may be more comfortable for the introvert than introducing himself to lots of new people, it defeats the purpose of networking.

The shy person should adopt the buddy system and attend events with their buddy. Then during the event, ask his buddy if they know anyone else and if they could make some introductions on your behalf.

Sometimes shy people have trouble networking because they don’t think they have anything significant, such as a job or a contact, to give back to someone who helped them.

Although networking works best when you do have something to offer, what you offer doesn’t have to be a job. Sincere interest in the other person—even flattery—is a form of generosity and goes a long way when you’re networking.

Be Prepared

If you’re afraid you’ll freeze up or get tongue-tied in a social setting, prepare yourself in advance. Think of ice-breaker questions you can ask people you meet. If you’re attending an event specifically to network your way to a new job, have your personal pitch ready. Also anticipating questions you may be asked, such as why you’re looking for a new job, and have clear, concise answers at the ready.

Follow Up

Sharing information—whether a website, article, report or phone number—with new contacts builds your credibility. So if you promised to e-mail a report to someone you met on the plane, make sure you do that.

When you do what you’ve said you were going to do, it gives the other person the impression that you keep your word. If you don’t, you’re just another schmoozer.

Get Over Your Fear of Rejection

In the course of networking, you’ll encounter people who can’t or don’t want to help you. That’s life. Don’t take it personally and don’t dwell on it. It’s all part of the process.

Take Risks

When you overcome your fear of rejection, it’ll be easier to make cold calls and strike up conversations with strangers.

The person sitting next to you at a banquet or on an airplane may be feeling as uncomfortable as you are and will appreciate you breaking the ice. They just might be a fabulous contact for you or know the right person for you to talk to. You just won’t know until you try.

See a Shrink

If you can’t open up to people, you’ll never be able to network. And if you absolutely cannot overcome your shyness on your own, says Ken Ferrazzi, author of the book Never Eat Alone. He recommends seeing a therapist who can help you understand why you’re so shy and give you the tools to change.



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