What I Wish I Knew About Networking As An Introvert
When I attended my first networking event, I literally have just moved the city. I was two weeks in when I first signed up for events. And this is a BIG jump for me! I have always been that girl who’s just in the corner, reading. The quiet one. The one with her doors always closed. and I have always preferred being home than going out. As much as I seem like I’m out and about all the time with other people (haha!) I really really love and thrive off of my solitude and being alone recharges me and allows me to be more productive.
The past few months have really been a learning experience! I wanted to be better with my “people skills” I guess and I really made an effort to go out there. Because it’s always true, “if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” And so I started my search for my tribe— the ones I can grow with and share the journey with. And since I allowed myself to be around more people, I learned that this is really and has always been the reason that I do what I do— being part of a community and having genuine relationships.
For this blog post, I’m sharing 5 things I knew I wish when I first started going to networking events or reaching out to other people and the things I still remind myself now. I love reading about other people’s experiences because it really helps me and so I hope as I share mine, I help others too.
It’s about quality, not quantity.
I went to photograph a brunch event a few months ago and I was so busy taking pictures that by the end I thought.. Wait, I havent talked to anyone! Sometimes we think, “if only I could give my business cards to 3 people or 7 or whatever number, I did well today. This event would be worth it.” But I knew I had to change that mindset, too.
Later that day, just before the event ended, I met two girls and we instantly connected with each other! I went out to coffee the next week with one of them and still stay in contact through social media. Now imagine, if I had tried to win EVERYONE in that room, I wouldnt be able to sit down and actually be present and exchange an ACTUAL conversation beyond business with these two girls. If I only exchanged nothing but elevator pitches, I wouldnt have found out that me and those girls have the same interests and enjoyed the same things and held the same beliefs.
Now I know better and when I attend avents, I dont put pressure on myself. I mean, I reach out but with a better intention and motive. It’s about creating an actual relationship and engaging in conversations. And laughing, that’s the most important.
2. What works for you— events or one on one?
Are we more into one on one conversations or events type of person?
Events are a great place to start especially because reaching out could be so DAUNTING at first. With events, you’ll be forced to interact with others and you can just join in on circles of conversations, although when in groups I’m more of a listener type than the one to bring up topics or state opinions. I like going to structured events such as workshops, etc because I get to learn a lot at the same time but going on just plain networking events are a good too!
Also, from the first event that Ive attended, I met so many people that I connected with and so I had the guts to reach out to them because I guess I knew what to expect. Also, I learned that I prefer just sitting down for coffee with another person and talking to them. That way I get a chance to actually talk and you know, be nosey haha! When Im sitting down with someone else, I’m more susceptible to actually converse about different things instead of just what’s happening around us during events.
3. Focus on others and listen.
We think that networking means you always have to know what to talk about, that we have to be so extroverted and talking all the time but really, it’s not that at all. As introverts, we like quiet but in this case that’s actually an asset! Sometimes I forget this too. I’ll be so nervous before I show up to a meeting asking myself “Oh my gosh, what am I gonna talk about? What if what if what if” but then I remind myself that it’s gonna be okay. That I only have to show up with my genuine interest in THEM and actually be present.
Look people in the eye and listen, instead of being pressured thinking about the next thing to say or what question you should ask next. I learned that when we’re just present and we save ourselves the pressure and we just enjoy their company, when we move the focus from ourselves and how we feel, and move that over to the other person, the conversation becomes so natural and you wont notice that you’ve been talking for hours already when you only planned to meet for an hour.
4. Build an online presence
Imagine this.. You’re walking to an event, nervous because you went alone and dont really know anyone, and then out of the blue someone reaches for you and enthusiastically says “Hi! I know you from Instagram!” This is such a GREAT feeling. This exact thing happened to me at a recent event and wow.
It’s like we’re hitting two birds with one stone because duh, we like being at home alone and just on our phone but at the same time, we’re building our online presence so others know us. And we get to connect with other people on the other side of the screen and I promise, this makes meeting them in person so much easier because theyll have an idea of who you are and hopefully, you of them.
It also helps stir conversations because you get to ask them about the recent event they attended or ask their opinion about this coffee shop youve seen on their instagram stories or just ask them about their life or work in general that youve seen on their website or social media AND vice versa.
5. Show Up Serving, Not Selling
This is something that Ive read a while ago and has stuck with me since. I think it’s important to remember this especially when we’re just putting our foot first in the industry. I reached out to a lot of people because I want to give to them, not because I want to sell them something or impress them with myself.
At the end of the day, you should always go back to your heart and keep asking yourself why you are doing something. I believe that I have the friendships that I do now because they know that my intentions have always been clean and I have always been genuine. Think of ways on how you can add value to others. When youre going to an event or meeting someone, you should think about what you can give instead of what you can get. Do something because you love others, not because you want them to love you. And others can tell your intentions, so there’s really no point in faking. Like what the go givers book said, you give not because it’s a strategy but because it is a way of life.
So those are my “tips,” if you will. Haha! Also remember that you dont have to try so hard..
Either way, put it on your calendar and just show up. Also, you have to show up positively. Know that people actually want you there, that they care about what you have to say and dont be afraid to take up space! Or to reach out first. Theyre like you, people, with teeth and heartbeat, you know? I promise the more you do it, it gets better.
The photos are from BlogIt Calgary, the recent blogging conference Ive attended with my friends Glenny and Myrhalyn. Ive learned so many things about blogging and pinterest and newsletters from 3 ladies and it revolutionised how I see my website! I also must say, the ladies there have been so so sweet. Some were just on their first event, because you know, most of us in this industry really love the fact that we can just work on our own. Haha! But the night ended and I loved the fact that there were just about 10 of us so it was really intimate and we got a chance to really know each other.
You can view the full gallery [here!] :)