Networking for introverts - Jo Alcock Consulting
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Networking for introverts

Networking for introverts

I’m fascinated by personality and how it affects the way we work; my Psychology A-level was one of the most interesting courses I’ve taken and my undergraduate dissertation (on Sports Psychology) focused on individual personality differences and their impact on sport participation. I’ve also always loved taking personality tests to try to find out more about myself.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about a book by Devora Zack titled ‘Networking for people who hate networking: a field guide for introverts, the overwhelmed, and the underconnected‘. Now I don’t hate networking, but I do find it difficult so thought this book might be able to help (plus it has pictures on penguins on the cover and within the chapters, which was always going to sway me!). I decided to buy a copy for my Kindle and have really enjoyed reading it.

Networking for people who hate networking

Networking for people who hate networking – from Amazon

So what really is an introvert anyway?

The book starts with an insight into the differences between introverts and extroverts, before encouraging you to complete a series of questions to discover which type of person you are:

Reflective – introverts think to talk
Focused – introverts go deep
Self-reliant – introverts energise alone

Verbal – extroverts talk to think
Expansive – extroverts go wide
Social – extroverts energise with others

I came out as a strong introvert, and can definitely relate to the above characteristics, particularly reflective and self-reliant. Some people I know seem surprised to discover that I’m an introvert. How can I enjoy presenting if I’m an introvert? This is covered in the book and definitely rings true for me:

Introverts are entirely capable of being skilled public speakers. In fact, introverts prefer clearly defined roles and so may be more comfortable leading a discussion than participating in one. Many introverts are more at ease in front of a group than roaming aimlessly through a cocktail party.

I found myself nodding away to this. I am terrible in group situations such as parties – I tend to just stick with one or two people and really struggle to ‘mingle’.

The book also debunks some common myths, such as the fact that shyness and outgoing-ness (is that a word? It is now!) have no direct correlation with introversion and extroversion, and that introverts can use their strengths to network. They will obviously have a different approach (fewer, deeper connections), but by using their strengths they can be excellent networkers.

How can I use my strengths as an introvert to help me network?

The main idea behind this is to follow a simple 3-P process:


By doing this, it enables introverts to think to talk (pause), seek depth (process), and energise alone (pace) – our strengths! The book discusses some of the ways to do this though I think it will take a bit of practice to get used to. Many networking events are fairly fast-paced (which suits extroverts as they talk to think) so it may be difficult to achieve this in practice. I know I struggle to join in brainstorming sessions if I have’t had the information in advance, as I need time to process the information and form my own thoughts about it before talking to other people about it. However, with a bit of preparation and using some of the key lessons I learnt (below), I’m willing to give it a go and hope it will improve my networking and help me feel a little less exhausted!

Key lessons

I took away a lot of lessons from this book, and will definitely be trying to follow the advice when I attend the ALA Annual conference in New Orleans in a few weeks time, which will be by far my largest networking event. The main things which stood out for me were:

  • Focus on connecting with a few individuals rather than trying to flit around and connect to a large number of people
  • Remember to schedule time alone to recharge (according to the book, “a drained introvert is an ineffective introvert”)
  • Ending a conversation is a valuable skill (I definitely need to work on this and the book has some good tips)
  • Treat others how they want to be treated – adapt and modify your communication depending on who you are communicating with
  • First impressions are important (Devora mentions that it takes two hundred time the amount of information to undo a first impression than it does to make it)

And probably the most important thing you can do to prepare yourself for networking situations:

Prepare a personal elevator pitch which is flexible so that you can adapt it depending on the situation, the listener and the intended outcome.

I really enjoyed reading this book and would thoroughly recommend it to any introverts wanting to improve their networking skills.


As an aside, I am honoured to be named a finalist in the Salem Press 2011 Library Blog Awards, particularly among such incredible blogs. Huge thanks to whoever nominated me (who I presume is a blog subscriber!) and to those who have voted for me – thank you so much. This blog is primarily a reflective tool for myself (see, definitely an introvert!), but it’s great that others find it interesting and I love receiving blog comments. Thank you 🙂

  • Jenni
    Posted at 16:43h, 20 May Reply

    Really interesting review. I think I might have to read this book, whilst I’ve always known I’m rubbish at mingling being at the CILIP Wales Conference was the first time it’s properly been an issue. I know I need to improve my networking skills, this sounds like it could help.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 16:50h, 20 May Reply

      I found it really useful. I think it will take me a while to integrate it into practice, but the things I learnt have definitely influenced the way I approach networking. I’m trying to make sure I schedule in some alone time at ALA Annual so that I can recharge, and I’m trying to prioritise the activities I’m involved in depending on who I would like to speak to and what I would like to achieve from the conference. We’ll see if it works, but I definitely feel far more equipped than I did before reading the book! 

  • Elizabeth Wilkinson
    Posted at 10:54h, 21 May Reply

    Thanks for the recommendation (picked up from @davidawinter). It’s the 2nd time I’ve had this book suggested, so it’s now on my Kindle. Like you, I have no problem standing up in front of a large lecture theatre and getting them laughing – but I dread parties.

    I’ll certainly tweet about this post, but I’m pretty sure I’ll also be blogging about the book once I’ve finished it, given the interest I had in the last post I did on Sasha Chua’s “The Shy Connector” slides (

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 11:59h, 23 May Reply

      Thanks so much for the comment and alerting me to Sacha’s excellent presentation. Some really useful advice there and a lot of similarities with the advice in the book. Hope you enjoy reading it! 

  • cjclarke1978
    Posted at 12:00h, 21 May Reply

    You’ve got my vote Jo!

  • Patricia McHugo
    Posted at 13:18h, 24 May Reply

    Joeyanne thank you for great blog post – I will definitely look at this book and love Sacha’s ‘Shy Connector’ slides

  • Gill
    Posted at 15:25h, 24 May Reply

    Sounds like a good book -I can definitely agree with this : ‘Many introverts are more at ease in front of a group than roaming aimlessly through a cocktail party.’

    I have no trouble speaking out in discussions etc but make me stand around with a glass in my hand and I can’t think of a thing to say – unless I have quaffed the contents several times!

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 11:55h, 26 May Reply

      I’m exactly the same – I fumble around at reception evenings so they are definitely the sort of situations I need to improve on. I often end up drinking lots of wine as a nervous response – not good when people are walking round topping up your glass all night!

  • Sue House
    Posted at 15:56h, 25 May Reply

    Rather late to this, but just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write this up. I think we can all pick up tips from this sort of book, whether we are introverts or extraverts, we all have to network with both types of people at some point.  Have a great time at ALA Annual 🙂

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 11:56h, 26 May Reply

      Definitely Sue – it was really useful to think about how different types of people might react in different circumstances. I’ll certainly be looking out for introvert and extrovert behaviour at the next networking event I attend.

      • Sue House
        Posted at 12:28h, 26 May Reply

        BTW I really can spell ‘extrovert’ honestly! #spellingfail

        My copy arrived in the post yesterday, you should be on commission!  Thought Kindle on my phone too small a screen for this sort of book 🙂

        • Jo Alcock
          Posted at 12:46h, 26 May Reply

          I don’t see a spelling mistake 😉

          Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

  • Jerry
    Posted at 06:01h, 28 May Reply

    Great tips on networking.  I guess us introverts have to learn to channel our strengths and use them.  I would like to share another good source of free informational tips from Paul Travis at The Relationship Capital Co.

  • learningdutch
    Posted at 15:51h, 19 July Reply

    Thanks for posting this. Great review. 🙂

  • Deb Farrell
    Posted at 10:54h, 20 July Reply

    Thanks for this very helpful review – I struggle with networking so am looking forward to reading this book 🙂

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 16:13h, 20 July Reply

      Hope you enjoy reading it Deb 🙂

  • Lisa Burscheidt
    Posted at 13:36h, 22 July Reply

    Can I just say that all the advice in this post was so useful last night, I really got a lot more out of it than out of previous networking events. So thanks for sharing, I’m going to get the book now 🙂

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 15:20h, 23 July Reply

      Great to hear – I hope you enjoy reading the book 🙂

  • Sally Reeve
    Posted at 14:20h, 23 July Reply

    Great review. Could really identify with this as I’m hopeless at parties and networking events. Always end up eating and drinking too much instead. Have always seen myself as an introverted extrovert (or is it the other way round) as there’s a lot inside wanting to come out but held back in group/social situations. I always think that talking to an audience or teaching a class is a bit like putting on an act and strangely a lot of actors and comedians will describe themselves as introverts. Hoping this book may have some useful tips for me so will try and get a copy. Thanks.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 15:23h, 23 July Reply

      It is really useful for helping you to figure out where you lie on the introvert-extrovert scale – I wasn’t expecting to come out as extreme introvert as I’m much the same as you and enjoy presenting and chatting, just not in large group situations with people I don’t know. It then helps you make the most of your traits whatever your outcome. Hope you manage to get hold of a copy and that you enjoy reading it.

  • Caroline Ball
    Posted at 13:08h, 25 July Reply

    This looks like it could be well worth a read. I’ve been using social networking for a long time (I’ve had my own personal blog for over ten years) but it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve been looking at it from a professional rather than personal viewpoints. I think there can be a lot of pitfalls, but it’s well worth the effort! I might take a look at this book. Thanks!

  • Caroline Ball
    Posted at 13:10h, 25 July Reply

    This looks like quite an interesting read! I’ve been using social networking sites on a personal basis for quite a while (I’ve had my own personal blog for over ten years, first on Blogger and since then on Livejournal) but it’s only in the last year or so I’ve been looking at it from a professional viewpoint. I think there can be a lot of pitfalls with professional social networking, if not used wisely and carefully, but it’s definitely worth it. I might recommend this book to my boss!

  • angellibrarian
    Posted at 00:51h, 29 July Reply

    Really interesting post – am going to buy this for my library.  The being more confident in front of a group than mingling with a group is exactly what I’m like!  Thanks for sharing.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 16:37h, 29 July Reply

      Hope you enjoy reading it – that point was one of many times when I found myself sighing with relief that I’m not the only one!

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    Posted at 14:58h, 18 July Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Jo! I’m definitely going to add it to my “to-read” list .

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      Posted at 15:15h, 18 July Reply

      Hope you enjoy it when it reaches top of the list, Bobbi. I have to confess the penguin illustrations were what drew me in initially but it was a very interesting read.

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