Everyone seems to understand the importance of being a good networker, but I know very few people who actually like doing it.
I’ve not always liked it, but I love it now. For the most part.
See, I’m a really shy person. It’s hard for others to tell, because I’ve worked hard at just getting over my shyness. Also, I’m an extrovert, though I struggle when meeting new people. Interversion is often equated with being shy, but they’re not the same thing. An extrovert is energized by being with others and an introvert is energized by being alone. In contrast, a shy person struggles when meeting new people. So for me, it’s that initial meeting with either strangers or even with people I already know that requires a lot of energy from me.
So how can a shy person make that transition to becoming a networking mogul?
Play to your strengths.
In Gallup StrengthsFinders parlance, I’m a Relator. I prefer to deepen relationships rather than making new ones, which tends to lead to shyness. I always prefer hanging with a small group of friends over meeting a room full of strangers. Though I dread cocktail parties, oddly I almost always enjoy them. I try to focus on one or two people at a time, assuming we can develop some rapport, and try to get to know them.
I use my other strengths to get that rapport started. I use my curiosity (in this case, Input, or desire to gather information), my creativity (Ideation, making creative associations and tangents to fuel the discussion), connectedness (find connections to other things/people) and then swing to Relator to deepen the relationship once we get off the ground.
Working with people I like really motivates me to find out what we have in common and build on it. I’m puzzled by those that focus on differences and those that state that they have “nothing in common” with another person. Do we not all have basically the same needs and desires: to live a good life, raise happy, successful children, and to feel loved and appreciated? If you believe that you have nothing in common, you will find that you have nothing to talk about. If you believe you share similar goals, yearnings and desires, you can make a friend for life.
Which is more fun, interesting and rewarding? What better way to turn an awful cocktail party into something rewarding and meaningful? Who knows, you may soon be working with your new friend.