I have a secret to spill. Sometimes (ok, a lot of the time), I love spending my free time by myself. I will explore the city on my bike, read a book next to the river, or sit in a cafe for hours with only a pen and paper for company. You may have guessed it: I am an introvert.
There’s been somewhat of an introvert ‘revolution’ in our country – probably the most quiet and peaceful revolution of our time. Scientists are realizing just how many people identify themselves as introverts, or have introverted characteristics: a whopping 50% of the US population. Recently, articles and books have been popping up all over to help introverts (and others) understand the circumstances that seem to favor extroverts.
Why is this important for your career? Living in D.C., networking is essential. But it can be scary, especially for an introvert.
The good news is that there are a lot of resources to help you and make networking easier. There are many things you can do before your next networking event, during the event, and afterwards to get the most out of networking. If you want to breeze through your next event, try some of these tips!
Before The Event
1. Know what you want to get out of it.
Networking isn’t always about finding a job. Are you looking for a new mentor? Information on how to break into a certain industry? Hoping to tell people about an upcoming event of yours? Recruiting for volunteers? Make sure you have answers to these questions – know your goal.
2. Do your homework.
Is there going to be a specific person at this event you want to know? If you know what sort of crowd will be there, you can at least have an idea. Research your industry of interest beforehand. If you have trouble with small talk, maybe even come up with some compelling conversation-starters beforehand.
If there’s one place to put an elevator speech – a 20 to 30 second long pitch about your assets and goals – to work, it’s at a networking event. Practice this beforehand.
During The Event
4. Take Initiative
Don’t be afraid to be the first one to walk up to someone with an outstretched hand, or enter a conversation and introduce yourself. Be the first to offer help when it is needed. Playing the active role will make you seem confident, even if you aren’t feeling that way.
5. Use their name
Everyone likes to hear their name! If you repeat someone’s name, not only does it help you remember, but it gives that person a little boost of happiness. Try to repeat their name when they first introduce themselves, and throughout the conversation as well.
6. Learn to listen
Ask open-ended questions about the other person. Really listen to what they are saying, with all of your focus. This lets the other person know you value what they are saying.
7. Be personal, be genuine
Being genuine goes hand in hand with listening. Talk to people you really want to know about, and tell them something real about yourself, too.
After The Event
8. Take notes
As soon as you get home, it’s a great idea to write down everything you remember. On each business card you receive, you can write notes about who gave them to you. Did you learn about a new event? An insight to your industry? A way to learn a new skill? Write them down, before you forget!
9. Say thank you, follow up
The networking event is just the beginning. If you want to form a relationship with someone new, it’s important to follow up right away. Send thank-you notes – you could even be personal and write a card! Schedule a follow up meeting if you’d like to continue the conversation.
There are networking opportunities all the time in this city for networking. The best way to get comfortable with networking is to just do it! What’s more, DC EcoWomen are giving you the perfect opportunity to flex those networking muscles – at our post-conference happy hour!
Maybe you’ll leave your next event with 100 connections, or maybe just one or two really great contacts. Hopefully, you will form a meaningful relationship with someone, or learn something truly valuable.
It’s comforting to know that about half of the people at your next networking event are introverts. But with help, and with practice, networking can be easy – and fun! So give it a shot: on May 18th, come to our networking happy hour and say hello. Even if it doesn’t land your dream job, you’ll get to enjoy the night with delicious appetizers, drinks, and genuine company.
Hope to see you there!