20 May 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.
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:
PAUSE – PROCESS – PACE
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!
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 🙂