Introverts can network, too!

Tips for introverts to find success and improve their networking skills.

Introverts and extroverts operate in different ways, and in recent years with the success of books like “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” and author Susan Cain’s TED talk, The Power of Introverts, there has been a lot of discussion about how introverts can think differently and still be good leaders.

Networking is often talked about as an important leadership and employability skill, but networking at a conference or event can feel like an inherently extroverted event. Michigan 4-H suggests the following tips for how to be successful as an introvert at this activity.

  • Give yourself a time limit. Participating in a large group activity, attending an open house or interacting at a meet-and-greet event may seem overwhelming to introverts. If this activity is not something you can or want to opt out of, tell yourself you only need to do it for a limited amount of time. Having a pre-determined end-time can help ease the stress of so much stimulation.
  • Focus on quality. Extroverts may pride themselves on how many people they’ve met, but that measure of success may exhaust you. It’s OK to have a smaller network if you feel your strong suit is deeper connections with each person in your network. If you are attending a meet-and-great activity, aim to make two or three good connections instead of feeling the need to meet everyone.
  • Allow yourself down time. Extroverts may make it look easy to meet new people all day long, but introverts need down time in between mentally taxing activities. If you attend a large event and you meet your time or connections goal, it’s OK to retreat to a quiet space for a few moments to allow time for your brain to digest what it has just taken in. If you have control over your schedule, make sure to include quiet time, even if it means giving up other activities.
  • Get contact information. Trying to have a meaningful conversation in a room where 500 other people are trying to do the same thing can be exhausting and frustrating. If you make the initial connection with someone in that room and trade contact information, you can follow up later on your own schedule. Introverts are often better at deepening and maintaining connections over email or social media.
  • Be yourself. Don’t feel pressured to conform to an extroverted ideal of what networking is. You can make it work for you in your own way.

Introverts may have to find alternate ways to work around traditionally extroverted modes of networking, but everyone can find ways to be successful at networking to become better leaders.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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