There are many articles, blogs and books dedicated to introverts and how to network, but what about us extroverts? We are perfectly able to network badly as well! The reasons may differ but it is surprising how similar the advice for introverts and extroverts can be to enable good networking. If you describe yourself as an extrovert, what are the pitfalls to consider?
A previous Warwick Careers blog explored the theme of networking from an introverts perspective and suggested that we all have to network. “Career success depends – partially, at least – on your ability to forge relationships and make connections. In other words, networking. You may be very competent at your job, but this will only get you so far.” Of course as an extrovert you may think you are already great at networking and this may be true, but some of us extroverts still struggle with networking, despite everyone telling us we should be great at it.
Over confident and under-prepared
So you may be capable striking up a conversation with just about anyone but this can be just talking instead of talking with a purpose. Many introverts I know like to research and gather information and use this to plan ahead and inform their strategy. Why should networking situations be any different for extroverts? Whether it’s a meeting, conference or after work event, do your homework – you’ll feel much more comfortable if you are familiar with the hot topics and discussion points. Check people out on Twitter and LinkedIn to give you some background info and conversation starters. In this way you can avoid the embarrassment of talking to people and asking questions that are easily available and they would have expected you to know if you were truly interested in them or their organisation.
You may easily strike up a conversation with another person, but are you talking at or with them?
You may be happy to talk to anyone and have your ‘elevator pitch’ perfected, but a networking conversation is not one way. There is nothing more off-putting than getting stuck with the networking bore, who confuses monologue with dialogue. Active listening is the first step towards finding common ground, and moving the conversation forward. Don’t underestimate its importance and value.
It is good to start with an open question: ‘What are you hoping to gather from this event?’ and close with something polite, but final: [insert name here], ‘I’ve really enjoyed our discussion, particularly hearing about your experience with X. Can I get your contact details and connect on LinkedIn?’ Being an extrovert can be good for getting remembered but failing to remember the person or the details from your conversation with them may compromise your future connections to this contact or organisation.
You are able to hold people’s attention, but can you bring others into the conversation?
Your natural confidence in these social situations may mean that you come to dominate a conversation, but where there is a small group networking try to bring others into the conversation. This can demonstrate good team working and communication skills, instead of making the recruiter wonder how you would fit in with others in their organisation.
You may be good at ‘working the room’ but do not forget to form quality relationships
The accepted mantra seems to be to ‘work the room’ but this can be counter-productive if you’re looking to foster worthwhile conversations. Serial networking is unlikely to yield positive results, and you risk appearing superficial and dismissive. Some of the most effective networking takes place in one to one situations, or quiet corners.
Introverts typically look for depth, not breadth, and this can bear fruit in networking terms. You don’t need to be a ‘power user’ on LinkedIn to be influential – look to create a manageable network of valuable contacts. A culture has developed where the name of the game seems to be collecting the most friends/followers/connections, but short-term measures don’t reflect the quality of your network. Make sure you follow-up and follow through: this is where the real networking takes place. Don’t obsess about the many, focus on fewer and more engaged connections to really benefit.
Networking can be a draining activity even for extroverts, maybe through being enthusiastic for a long time or perhaps because you are reining yourself in so you are not ‘too much.’ Invest your time and energy wisely. Manage your social interactions and intersperse face to face activity with follow up online networking, this can enable you to form deeper relationships. Give yourself one or two specific goals – someone you want to meet, a question you need answered, a request for help or advice, for example. This will give purpose and structure to the event rather than scatter-gun interactions that you cannot follow through.