All business people need networking to make headway in their careers. However, it’s not easy to make connections, especially work-related ones. Getting ahead involves being discreet yet professional when meeting others in your industry. It’s easy to alienate or overwhelm potential contacts, especially if you don’t pitch your networking attempts correctly.
It’s not limited to a particular personality type, either—both extroverts and introverts face challenges when networking. Here are things that both personality types face and how you can deal with them.
Networking Challenges for Extroverts
Most people think that networking comes easy to extroverts since they have the gift of gab. They find it easy to speak to others and find common ground, especially in social situations like parties. The most common networking gaffe that extroverts make, though, is their failure to read the room. Many outgoing people think that people are always receptive to their attention. As a result, they tend to overwhelm their conversation partners.
Extroverts should be sensitive about changes in tone or facial expressions in their potential contacts. They should know how to decode other people’s body language and not overstep the mark.
One good way to do this is to take cues from the person they’re talking to—if the person an extrovert is talking to is looking around or responding in single sentences, they should take that as a sign that they have to wrap up the conversation.
Networking Challenges for Introverts
Many introverts find the entire concept of networking tough. It can be draining to them since it’s about reaching as many people as possible and talking about surface-level topics. For shy introverts, it’s even more challenging since networking requires them to have plenty of energy in addition to stepping outside their comfort zone.
It would help introverts to reframe the process and recognise that it’s not as bad as they make it out to be. They must see networking not as a chore but as a chance to learn about the industry and find people passionate about it.
Introverts might also find it helpful to research the people they are likely to meet and prepare topics of conversation. They can rely on their talking points when they become lost for things to say. A brief introduction is okay if you find it hard to engage with others in a public setting, but be sure to follow up with an email or a LinkedIn message.
Challenges for Both Personality Types
Some networking challenges apply to everyone. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you might find the following things difficult:
- Knowing which people to target: You’d want to speak to the right people. “Right” doesn’t mean the top decision-maker—for example, if you’d like to publish an article in a magazine, it makes sense to get to know the editor in charge of the section you’re targeting instead of writing to the publisher or the editor-in-chief.
- Being someone they’ll remember: When networking, you need to have an elevator pitch for yourself. You need to provide key facts about you and your career, striking a balance between being unique and informative.
- Leaving a good impression: Both introverts and extroverts must also learn to leave a favourable, pleasant impression. You want your prospective contact to wish to keep talking to you, and that’s only possible if they enjoy your first conversation.
- Following up: Another thing that many people struggle with is following up. Emails after an event should be light but not fluffy. You should also know how to stay on your contacts’ radars without harassing them.
Today’s digitised business environment requires us to learn how to network virtually. Each person you come in contact with can be a contact in the future, so always be mindful of how you’re coming across. Plan what you’ll do during a big networking event—have points of discussion and business cards on hand. That way, you won’t be sitting there twiddling your thumbs or browsing through your phone instead of talking.
Networking unlocks plenty of opportunities. However, not everyone is skilled at it. If starting a conversation fills you with dread, preparing will help. The more practice you have, the better you’ll get at it!
Hone your networking skills with NRG. Our network referral group helps SME and start-up owners in Western Australia meet like-minded individuals and advocate for each other’s success. Contact us today to learn more!