For shy networkers, building your network can be a challenge. A week ago, I attended a business mixer sponsored by the Portland Business Journal, and was immediately reminded about something. RELATED: 10 Tips For People Who Hate Networking As I walked into the crowded room of about 200 professionals, I remembered that keeping up the art of networking requires you to keep working at it. Like exercising a muscle, you need to keep flexing it in order to keep it in shape. Not that I have any excuse... I have been (ahem) a little negligent myself lately in getting out into true networking situations where I don’t know anyone. A heavy client load and multiple projects have kept my time constrained to running from appointment to appointment, with no time (or energy) to commit to going to any after-hours networking events. I’ve been too exhausted. But that is no excuse. I realized it had been awhile since the last networking event that I had attended, and silently resolved to get myself back out there. So, as I entered that room, I suddenly realized how flabby my networking muscle was. And I’ll admit it: I was scared since I knew a total of two people out of that crowd. Why was I scared? Because deep down, I am actually a horrifically shy person. And when anyone who is shy is thrust into a setting where it is densely packed and they don’t really know anyone, the natural instinct is to clam up and find a corner of the room for shelter. It was all I could do to force myself into the heaving crowd. But I did it. When people reveal to me that they are shy or have a hard time networking, I know that pain... personally. But you CAN get past it and it can open up new doors in ways you couldn’t have imagined. During the event, I pushed myself past the shyness envelope, made eye contact with strangers, and stuck out my hand to say hello. I met a lot of people that night through the power of networking. One gentleman I met was interested in resume writing services for himself (he contacted me later to follow up- a good sign); another was slipping past a door I was standing near and I jokingly said, “In order to pass, you need to introduce yourself.” Turns out he was an executive coach and after chatting, we set up a meeting the very next day to figure out how we could refer business to each other. And a client of mine (one of the two people I knew at the event) was chatting with another gentleman to whom she introduced me... turns out he was involved with a workforce board and we had a lot to discuss. Since then, we have met in person over coffee and shared ideas over e-mail. So, if you say you are shy and that is the reason why you aren’t good at networking, that is a self-imposed barrier you have put up in front of yourself. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. But here are a few quick tips for you to get through that initial awkward conversational stage and transform the people you meet at events into powerful contacts in your network:
Are you an introvert who is considering career networking (by choice or by force)? Related: Building Your Network: 5 Tips For Shy Networkers Introverts are stereotypically defined by their aversion for unnecessary interactions. And some people (not necessarily introverts) think that this hinders in their career path.