10 Super-Helpful Networking Tips For Introverts

Everyone knows how important it is to make connections with other professionals when you’re looking for a new job, especially at networking events. But what if you’re like me, a wallflower who shies away from small talk and interacting with strangers?

Never fear, introverts of the world. You, too, can find success through networking. It just takes some practice. Here are my tips for introverted networking:

1. Script your intro.

Samuel C. Pease, a managing director at New Directions, an executive career-coaching firm in Boston, helps clients draft a three-sentence elevator pitch that nails down their unique talents, their professional background, the kinds of jobs they’re seeking, and the “ask”—a.k.a. the next thing they need. Not sure how to craft your own pitch? Get the basics down first, including what might bring you closer to your larger goal (inside info on new ventures in your field, say, or a personal introduction to a power player). Then put this into language that feels natural, not forced, coming out of your mouth. Practice in the mirror. Also, be prepared with a few specific questions. Once you get someone else talking, you can relax and listen.

2.Duck out now and then.

If you’re at a big event, like a conference, resist the pressure to attend too many panels and parties, says Cain. Taking much-needed breaks helps introverts recharge. Return to your hotel room, go for a walk, or find a quiet spot in the lobby where you can decompress. As you probably know, introverts draw energy from being alone, while extroverts draw it from being around others. Stepping away for a few minutes will help you come back stronger.

3.Take some “me” time.

If you’re an introvert, you know it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy, just that you need to recharge before and after social engagements. When planning to attend a networking event, schedule some time before and after the event for solitude. I usually make sure the evening before involves solo activities such as rock climbing or sewing. Then I have some quiet time to recharge my social circuits.

4.Stay focused.

Especially at busy events, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the many conversations and activities going on. Try not to get discouraged if you find your mind drifting to other conversations nearby. You can either try to reengage your thoughts in the current discussion, or excuse yourself to join another that may be of more interest.

5.Don’t know what to say? Let others do the talking.

Let’s be honest, most networking events are full of people eager to tell you about their work experience or side projects. As an introvert, you can take advantage of this by asking questions to start conversations and keep them going without the anxiety of feeling like you’re on stage talking about yourself.

6.Go to the same networking events consistently .

This increases your chances of running into familiar faces, which will help you feel more comfortable over time. Remember that the goal is to make connections with people, and that can take time. This isn’t a job interview – it’s about building professional relationships.

7.Get out of your comfort zone 

but remember that you don’t have to talk to everybody at the event. In fact, doing so means you’re less likely to truly connect with attendees. Quality always over quantity, especially when it comes to people.

8.Be kind to yourself .

You’re might feel uncomfortable, but I guarantee you won’t be the only one. Everybody is there to meet people, so don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation. If you need to leave early, don’t be too hard on yourself—but be sure to go back another time, because it really does get easier the more often you go!

9.Stay only 20 minutes.

“It’s perfectly fine to promise yourself that you’ll leave within a half hour, as long as you accomplish your goals,” says Michelle Tenzyk, the president of East Tenth Group, a human resources and leadership consulting firm in New York City. But don’t be a stickler. “If you happen to be having a good time,” says Tenzyk, “stay longer.”

10.Think quality, not quantity.

Strive to “make one or two new meaningful connections with people whose company you enjoy,” says Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking ($10, bn.com). Don’t push yourself to shake every hand in the room. Susan Jewkes Allen, a San Francisco–based career coach (and an introvert), has had luck with this plan. She recalls attending events with an extremely extroverted CEO who aimed to collect as many business cards as possible. “I would set a much smaller, focused goal,” she says. “I’d try to meet, say, four people who work in business development, which was my field at the time. And in the end the CEO and I would realize the same results.”

The hardest step is just convincing yourself to go. Face your fears and anxieties and you’ll find over time, building new professional connections will come easy.