Here's the good news for introverts: what's traditionally thought of as networking -- things like glad-handing strangers, cold pitching wary bigwigs, and eyeballing people across the room to figure out what can do for you -- isn't just gross, it's also not terribly effective.
Great work builds strong networks, not the other way around, Wharton professor and author Adam Grant recently argued in the New York Times. "Do something interesting, and instead of having to push your way in, you'll get pulled in. The network comes to you," he writes.
But here's the bad news: while skeevy, transactional networking isn't necessary, putting the interesting work you do out there still is. And even that can be tricky for the more introverted among us.
Which is why the internet is jam packed with networking advice for quieter types. Being a pretty extreme introvert myself (and also having a professional interest in good tips), I keep a pretty keen eye out for the best suggestions. Usually what I find is solid but not surprising. A recent post on Women 2.0 by founder and confirmed introvert Andrea Barrica was different. In it she offered a host of great tips that I don't see every day, including:
1. Ask surprising questions.
"Forget 'So, what are you working on?'. After a quick intro, I jump to questions that wake people up. My favorites lately have been 'What's keeping you up at night these days?,' 'What is delighting you recently?,' and 'Do you have any fun side hustles right now?'" explains Barrica.
"Is it a little awkward a first? Maybe," she allows, "but if you pretend it's the most natural thing in the world, people usually are pleasantly surprised and happy for the entertainment value of leaving their usual canned questions and answers aside." Looking for more out-of-the-box question ideas in order to take Barrica's advice? Here's some inspiration.
2. Play favorites.
"If I'm talking with a group of 4 or 5 people, I have no shame about paying laser-focused attention to one or two of the people I'm connecting with most," Barrica confesses.
3. Sleep in on days you're going to network.
I personally love this tip: "If I know that I'm going to be at a networking-heavy event in the evening, I fuel my batteries by sleeping in and keeping the beginning of my day very light." Others have suggested that sleeping in the day after you drain your social batteries down to zero is probably a good idea too.
4. Go straight to Facebook.
The lines are sometimes blurred, but in general most of us keep things extremely professional on LinkedIn but let a lot more personality show through on Facebook. Barrica uses this fact to signal her real interest in new acquaintances, and to shortcut the dry, all business introductory phase of a budding relationship
"When [new contacts] invariably offer to connect on LinkedIn, I deliver my pitch - 'How about we skip LinkedIn and go straight to Facebook?' I use this when I have a friend crush on someone and want to be up front about my enthusiasm about meeting them," she says.
5. Don't pitch your business.
Waiting to be genuinely asked about your work is a far better alternative than launching in on a canned pitch before you've determined whether the other person is actually interested in listening. "If someone asks me what I do, I say something along the lines of 'I build safe spaces to talk about sex online.' I don't feel the need to launch into a long pitch about O.school in every conversation. Those who are actually interested will make it clear, and then I am happy to share!" she explains.
Looking for more great introvert networking tips? Then check out Barrica's complete post. Or, here's more specific advice for when you're facing particularly challenging situations for introverts, like big conferences or busy work parties.