According to networking expert and bestselling author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking Devora Zack, people who proclaim to hate networking often tend to also believe they are not very good at it.
But chances are, they are simply following the wrong rules. Standard networking advice is extrovert-centric and fails most introverts and centroverts.
Think about it. If the standard advice is aimed people of a particular temperament—the very personality style that is already predisposed to enjoy the prospect of spearing cheese in a room full of bustling strangers – then many of folks who do not have that temperament proceed to interpret this disconnect as their own shortcoming. “If that is how to network successfully, then I am a networking train wreck.” As if this conviction is an indisputable fact and there’s nothing we mortals can do about it.
Why does the same advice that makes extroverts giddy sink like a rock in the stomach of introverts?
The answer? Experiences that fill an extrovert with glee make an introvert feel inauthentic and exhausted.
So even if you’d rather schedule a root-canal than attend your next mandatory business event, know this: you have the raw materials to be a stellar networker. Just remember these two important points:
1. A drained introvert is an ineffective introvert.
Go ask an extrovert for networking tips. You’ll find one nearby, chatting with the others. His recommendations may include acquiring lots of contacts, meeting as many people as possible, and filling your calendar with events.
An introvert who foolishly attempts to follow the string of advice blithely offered by a gifted extroverted networker will collapse faster than a soufflé at a fireworks display.
Follow your energy. If you turn every meal into a networking opportunity, you will drop from exhaustion within two weeks. There is nothing wrong with eating alone. Solo time is how many people process data and revive energy.
Successful networking requires that you be true to yourself. You are the foundation from which to build. Attempting to transform yourself into another type of person is a dangerous business that will leave you dazed, confused, and plain old wiped-out.
2. Extroverts collect. Introverts connect.
If you’re an introvert, you may have unpleasant memories of standing at a corporate event like a wilting networking wallflower, wistfully watching extroverts swirl around the room collecting—people, business cards, and toothpicks from those tasty hors d’oeuvre platters.
Perhaps this observation convinced you of your own inadequacy: I don’t want to talk to these people, and they don’t want to talk to me.
But it’s not true. The old rules for networking success are not inherently bad, they are just limited. They work—for the approximately 30 percent of the population that identify as strong extroverts. The centroverts (20 percent of moderate/ slight extroverts + 20 percent of moderate/slight introverts) and introverts do not directly benefit from the old rules. In fact, the old rules might falsely convince them that their networking failures are a result of their own personal inadequacies.
The truth is, we do not succeed by denying our natural temperaments; we succeed by working with our strengths. So next time you feel that familiar feeling of dread about an upcoming networking event, remember that success starts with being real. If you are overwhelmed, try to start enjoying the ride instead of dwelling on what you should do. Should is not very inspiring. (You should never say should.) If you are underconnected, revisit your definition of that term. If you are an introvert, that is fantastic; you are well positioned to win all kinds of networker-of-the-year awards. Start jotting notes now for your acceptance speech.