I’m an INTJ.
As an introvert, it is not in my nature to initiate conversations. In my younger years I was a total wallflower. My roles over time have forced me out of my shell and I am grateful for every single opportunity I have had to overcome any fear of socializing. This process is not easy, but it’s worth it. Looking around, so much of what I have is due to networking.
So what has networking done for me?
The more I have networked over the years, the more confident I have become in my ability to do so. Sure I still feel awkward sometimes and half the time the conversation goes nowhere, but the absolute value of the relationships I have built makes it worth it even if I only build 1 relationship out of 50 connections.
I have been on several boards due to people just being aware of who I am and what my interests are. These generally weren’t targeted board seats. People I kept relationships with or even just met knew of my interests and passions and connected me to other folks and a relationship grew very organically.
Sales is of course a major outcome of networking. Whether you are selling services, products or yourself, networking is a critical component to building brand awareness.
Networking hasn’t just built my professional network, it has built friendships. I love grabbing drinks or lunch with a lot of these folks and enjoy their company. Through these friendships I have also broadened my interests and understanding of the world around me. If absolutely nothing else, this aspect is invaluable.
So how is one successful at networking?
Just do it
Walk into a situation thinking “what is the worst that could happen?” This person blows you off and you go home and nobody dies at the end. No big deal. No matter who the person is, they are still a person, just like you. Brush up on some ways to open a conversation and just do it.
Know what to say. Who are you? Why you are you here? What do you bring to the table? Who do you know? These are all questions you have to know the answer to. Prepare for the situation. You only get one shot at these initial connections, be ready.
Conversations are very fluid. Search for similarities, use them to your advantage to keep a conversation moving. Your ability to move a conversation will determine if you will talk with this person again. What are similarities? Haircuts, suits, accessories, music, art, shared connections, pretty much anything can keep a conversation going if you can find these similarities.
Learn from every interaction
Listen. First and foremost listen to the person you are talking with. Next, listen to yourself. How is your tone? Did you stumble? If so, why? If you could have this interaction over again, what would you change? Each experience is an opportunity to learn so that the next experience is better.
Shake it off
Even if this one blows up in your face, don’t let it be a waste. Learn from it and move on. Rejection is part of this game. It will happen. Once you accept that, it can’t stand in your way.
Whether you are ridiculously shy or excellent with people, networking is a critical component to leading a happy and successful life.
Get out there, it’s worth it.