Updated: Jul 25
Guest Blogger, Alicia Dale, shares tips that build courage and confidence
Networking is perceived by many as an extrovert's domain. The image of an outgoing, confident individual navigating a crowded room, effortlessly making connections, comes to mind. However, introverts are generally more subtle in their approach. Oftentimes, they listen actively, reflect deeply, and build long-lasting relationships.
I learned I was an introvert when I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The test revealed I was more introverted than extroverted. I was attempting to get the high-paying, prestigious job of my dreams in financial sales. Unfortunately, the Vice President of Human Resources said, "Too bad, you're not a fit," assessing that extroverts had a special handle on sales jobs.
The VP of HR acted inappropriately. Even the psychologists Kathryn Cooks Briggs and Isabelle Briggs Myers would've shared the MBTI was never intended to identify who would be good at what job. The test was designed to provide insight so individuals could maximize their individual strengths. This VP taught me a harsh lesson I have validated many times throughout my career. Not everyone who has a job is qualified for their job — or does the job well.
After the VP saw how devastated I was by her proclamation, she followed up with "but introverts are great networkers." She was right. I got my sales job by working through the corporate hierarchy attempting to persuade anyone I could to help me get the job.
Claim Your Power as an Introvert
Introverts excel at building meaningful connections. When networking, we naturally prioritize quality over quantity. I was working in complex sales where I had to influence buy-in from many levels throughout the corporation. The Chief Financial Officer had to endorse the deal; however, the administrators had to agree that the new service could be implemented, and the analysts had to concur that the new solution made business sense. New business development would often take years to implement, all while navigating constant competition. Extroverts might be more charming and engaging. However, fighting these long-term battles takes the tenacity of an introvert. Of course, both extroverts and introverts can develop any skill they need to succeed. We simply have to leverage our strengths.
If networking doesn't come naturally to you, I'll share some tips:
I received some terrible advice when I started my first business. It was, "don't work with friends and family." My perspective is, "it's a blessing to work with family when you can - who do you know better?" I follow that advice up with, "anyone you work with should become a friend, and may very well end up feeling like family member." In my opinion, working with friends and family is a key benefit of owning a small business or being self-employed.
Networking Takes Time. Don't risk wasting time by meeting with everyone who wants to meet with you. You might feel like you're being productive, but you may not advance your goals. Know why you want to connect with someone and define what you expect from this meeting. Have a long-term goal, a short-term goal, and a personal goal. Your long-term goal might be to get the sale. In a sales scenario, your short-term goal could be to identify if the person you are meeting with has the authority to approve the deal. An example of a personal goal is to try out a new presentation skill or learn about an industry. If the person you want to meet might be able to advance your goals, then take the meeting.
Ask for Advice. When I started my first business in the year 2000. I was terrified. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. All I knew was that I was a proficient strategic salesperson and I was adept at marketing. I made a list of the most impressive business people I knew who owned multi-million-dollar businesses. Then I called and requested meetings letting them know I was looking for advice.
This non-intrusive approach worked. The accomplished leaders shared their wisdom freely. Their generosity saved me time, helped me avoid mistakes, and created a windfall of insight. One woman, a Vice President at one of my former employers, shared with me she spent way too much money setting up her corporate structure. She disclosed that it took her years to financially recover from that decision. Her kindness in sharing this valuable information saved me time and thousands of dollars. I learned how to set up a limited liability corporation on my own, which only cost a couple of hundred dollars at the time.
Focus on What You Can Give. When your contact shares information about themselves and their business, focus on what you can do to help them. Make connections and offer resources when you can. Doing so develops a trusted relationship. Your contacts will likely think of you when there is information available or a person you need to meet that can help you achieve your goals.
Take Notes and Follow Up. Introverts will complete the notes in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. In my situation, once you're in my database - you're in my database for life. People ask me for contact names all the time; realizing I network with integrity.
I've given out the names of financial services providers, attorneys, building contractors, health care providers, realtors, and others. If someone has a bad experience with one of my contacts, I will follow up with the contact and let the professional know. It's important to me that they are accountable.
Surround Yourself with Experts. I have a rule in my life, "only take advice from people who have done it." To reiterate, when I started my business, I asked successful business owners how they grew a business. When I decided I wanted to try ghostwriting, I sought advice from the most successful ghostwriters I could find. It's a winning strategy.
That was Then; This is Now
Gone are the days when networking is limited to face-to-face interactions at conferences or business events. Social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, have revolutionized the way we connect with others. These platforms provide an avenue for individuals to build personal and professional friendships based on mutual interests with people throughout the world.
Play with social media. I’m not an early adopter. Some channels dissolve quickly. However, it’s fun to check them out. Choose your platforms with authenticity. If you like to write, like I do, writing articles on LinkedIn could be a good choice. If you eschew being a media star, like me, TikTok might not be right for you. However, we are all unique. Choose the channels that are right for you and invest time and energy into them. You will meet like-minded people.
Remember online etiquette when making new connections. Consider your brand and your personal goals. In my case, I want to widen my network and help people where I can. After taking one of his online courses, I met with Marc Allen, publisher of New World Library. Marc notably published The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. He was very generous with his time and advice.
In a more recent example, I just returned from Norway. I met a woman who was organizing a healthy retreat to help people reset and put the difficult past behind them. In yet another example, I procured an assignment writing forensic reports for the courts through online networking. I was able to collaborate with a woman in Venezuela using an online translator. This is nothing short of a miracle!
The world has become small. It’s possible to connect with people who will advance our goals and help to create the kind of world we’d like to live in. I encourage everyone to embrace every opportunity and contribute freely.
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