How To Network For Introverts
By Divya Samtani | When it comes to success, it's all about the people. Whether you're on the hunt for talent, new ideas, or are simply open to learning new things, there is nothing more powerful than putting yourself in a position to constantly meet new people. In today's hyper-connected, highly networked world, seizing these opportunities is even more critical. As they say, it's not what you know but who you know. That being the case, then practically speaking, the best thing you can do is get out there and start networking.
This is where you either nod knowingly or cringe. To the latter – I don't blame you. As someone who started her career in the world of PR, marketing and media, and now meets literally hundreds of new people per week, networking isn't so much a nice-to-have in my life as it an I-better-have.
Yet having cultivated a phobia of speaking to strangers for most of my childhood and well into my adult life, the idea of having to schmooze and small talk is one I've always approached with trepidation.
Luckily, I realized early on that I did not have to sell my soul or my sanity in order to succeed socially or professionally. The more I started to see networking as a way to make a difference in people's lives as well as to explore and enrich my own, I was off to the races. It all came down to some strategic reframing and playful perceptions. Here are a couple tricks that helped me get started.
According to Steve Jobs, creativity is nothing more than simply, ‘connecting the dots". The issue, however, is that "most people don't have enough dots to connect because they haven't had many diverse experiences". This is where the power of networking comes in. Exposing yourself regularly to people outside your standard social circle is the perfect way to come into contact with new and potentially important dots. Just sit back, listen, and let those creative juices flow.
A Matching Puzzle
There's no doubt that networking can be time-consuming. But try to look at it as a game, one in which the goal is to see how many matches you can make that generate synergy – in other words, connecting someone with a need to someone else you know that can fulfill it. Real networking is all about finding ways to deliver value to others, and by sharing your connections in this way you're not only fueling collective success, but making yourself indispensable.
An Oasis of Learning and Inspiration
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Every man I meet is my superior in some way and in that, I learn from him." The desire for lifelong learning is something that all successful individuals have in common, and where better to fulfill this than in a room full of hidden intellectual gems just waiting to be discovered. Once you realize that every single person has the potential to unlock brand new worlds and ways of thinking, awkward conversations become voyages of discovery and, possibly, even epiphany.
Opportunity to Share your Gift
Sometimes you’ll meet someone who is so passionate about what they do that their eyes just light up and you can't help but smile along. It's a magical feeling for both the speaker and the audience, and it’s surprisingly easy to achieve. It starts with knowing who you are, what you're looking for, and sharing that story with as much enthusiasm and open-heartedness as you can muster.
While this may sound like a whole lot of effort for people you don't know, you'll find that it's extremely effective in blitzing away people's barriers and banishing the small talk. Not only will you be left feeling great that you've been true to yourself, but you'll radiate an energy that is both contagious and also empowering for others. After all, you never know how a few words might inspire someone else, and perhaps even change their life.
This is my favourite way to see networking, and it's something I'm grateful for the chance to experience at work almost every day. Richard Kelly, Chief Catalyst Officer of Li & Fung and Creativity Curator for Mettā, described Mettā as the social serendipity of like-minded souls. Essentially it's a place where brilliant, bold and like-minded individuals from across disparate networks connect with one another, fusing new relationships, and unleashing magnificent amounts of energy in the world.
Think of it like a nuclear reactor, with the result being everything from businesses, movements, and communities being created, to collaboration groups and industry-change projects being formed. It’s nothing more than good old serendipity, just accelerated.
If at the end of the day, we all live one life and that life is all about the people we share it with, then give it your best shot. You can either see networking as a necessary evil of the professional world, or you can choose to see it how I do – pure alchemy. The best part of it is that you never know just who will spark it.
About The Author
Divya Samtani is a technologist, storyteller, and marketing specialist who has worked with some of the world’s largest financial and tech organizations, helping them to define their marketing, media and communications strategies. Fresh off a recent programming course, she is currently Head of Global Brand and Content at Mettā in Hong Kong, where she focuses on the education and empowerment of the community, as well as on breaking global business barriers to lead a collaboration revolution.