One of the things I’ve discovered as I’ve written about different topics for this blog is that often, people take a condition or an idea on face and don’t evaluate it or think about it anymore than that. A good example would be networking; if you think about networking at the most superficial level possible, you’d assume it’s an area dominated by extroverts. After all, LinkedIn is apparently the world’s No. 1 networking site — and the goal there is often to get more, more, more (more contacts, more views, more posts, etc.) Extroverts tend to be good at concepts involving “big” and “more.” Introverts don’t — in essence, they get strength from being solitary.
But if you think a little bit deeper here, it’s actually probable that introverts — who don’t typically like big, bustling rooms you see at many networking events — could actually be better at networking than extroverts. Why? Here we go.
It’s laid out a bit here, and the key points are as follows:
- Networking isn’t about the big number; that’s actually where the structure of LinkedIn gets it wrong. Networking is about having 8-12 close connections who can tap into their networks for you; that’s far more valuable than having 200 connections you never really speak to except at periodic events. Introverts understand this notion better than extroverts.
- Mostly in life, you secure a new relationship or get what you need by making the other person feel important. The surest way to do that is through listening. Again, introverts tend to be better here. This science goes back to Dale Carnegie, and people still quote that dude.
- Introverts, because they might be nervous about the actual structure of the event, will probably do a little more research beforehand on who’s attending, what they do, etc. Extroverts tend to show up, possibly with some research, and rely on their personalities to carry them. That pre-research introverts are doing could be valuable in a short, listening-focused conversation, though.
Many of the points above do involve generalizations, yes — the idea that all extroverts are the same way, or all introverts are — and that’s a flaw of the approach.
But the broader idea is that many people consider networking to be the domain of extroverts, and in reality, it doesn’t have to be — and logically shouldn’t be. These are some of the same reasons that introverts are good in marketing departments, even if the hiring script doesn’t always allow for that to happen.
I guess I’d say this, personally: a lot of people probably view me as an extrovert, but I personally look at myself as introverted. I don’t like people that much of the time; honestly, they make me nervous. I think I get strength more from inside myself, and I enjoy asking people questions about “their deal” and listening to the responses.
That has made networking hard, because a lot of the people you run into while networking expect you to behave a certain way — loud, talkative, full of stories and quips, ready with the business card, etc. There is a certain ingrained mindset in networking events that can be hard to defeat, but I think real listening and the ability to develop a few key relationships beats that every time.
The bigger problem for me was always the context of the hand-off from one person to another in the networking process, but you can argue that’s a flaw of my own as well.
Bottom line: introverts can be successful at conventional networking, and often more successful than extroverts. People wouldn’t naturally think that, but if you go just a little bit below the surface of your thought process, it’s there.