Friday, 1 April 2016

7 tips for networking as an introvert

March and April are very social months for M&J. Events like the annual Crazy 8’s Gala and WIFTV’s film festival take up most of March and my dear friend, Myriam Laroche’s amazing Eco Fashion Week is at the start of April.

As a result, post work day I find myself in crowded rooms… a lot.

I am an introvert. My idea of the best weekend ever is a good cup of tea, a cozy blanket and a cat curled up on my lap. The key to this mental image of realized perfection is that it involves only one person… me. I like my alone time. In fact, I need it.

In March and April it becomes harder for me to get said alone time as the calendar fills with these many events. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the invites. I want to be there, it’s just ‘How’ I am there that really makes the difference to my stamina and whether I have enough energy to make these outings productive or not. How I navigate my work’s social calendar in March and April determines whether I’m able to attend everything and still bounce back or whether I am completely depleted and in need of holing up like a rabbit for a while.

Here’s a couple of tips and tricks I’ve learnt over the years for how to navigate industry parties as an introvert:

1. Buddy Up

M is a life saver when it comes to events for me. She is a touch more extroverted than I am so I feel very safe to just stand back when I need to and let her gracefully lead the conversation.

It doesn’t have to be a business partner though, it can be a friend or colleague who will mutually benefit from attending with you. Just someone who is there so you don’t always have to carry every conversation.

2. Meditate beforehand

Even 5 minutes helps. I know this advice is all over the internet but damn it’s true. A little meditation can help you get grounded and remember to be kind to yourself in this very 'reminiscent of high school' situation.

3. Find a refuge

Whether it’s a side room where they are keeping the stacked tables or it’s the ladies restroom, note upon arrival the places and spaces where you can duck into for a little mid-event R&R.

4. If you are really tired don’t go

I know it seems like you should attend every single thing but you really don’t have to. You will get much more out of attending one event with full energy and enthusiasm than slogging your way through five. Check in with yourself and if tonight isn't the night for a dress and high heels, it just isn’t. There’s always the next one.

5. Leave when you need to 

You’ve made it through the first two hours but now you are crashing and dreams of take-out sushi and Netflix are pulling you from the present moment. You’ve hit a wall my friend. If this has happened and your energy has just evaporated it is best to take your leave. Pushing through is not noble, in fact, it’s potentially damaging. If you are at all like me and have been told that when you are tired you look angry, you can see how this would be a bad thing in a social setting where you want to make strong first impressions and nurture existing professional relationships. It is better to have one good conversation with someone you genuinely connect with and then go home to recharge than to push through and make a bunch of superficial contacts, you’ll likely never follow up with or possibly offend with your tired scowl.

Go home.

That said...  If you still are in a situation where you absolutely ought to stay longer, remember…

6. If you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to  

Here’s the deal, lots of people talk at these things… a lot. I am sure I have been one of them myself, given the right day and quantity of chocolate I’ve consumed beforehand but it shows a certain professionalism and confidence to just stand back and listen. Good listening skills are a strong asset to showcase and so don’t put pressure on yourself to chime in if you don’t feel like it.

Lastly …

7. Schedule replenish time

If you can swing it, carve out some down time between events to do a little self-care and introvert pampering. Actually put in your calendar some time the next day to have a walk by yourself, read a book or take a long bath. It will help you keep your stamina up for the next social requirement.

So, that’s it! Those are some of my tips and tricks for my fellow introverts. I hope they prove helpful. Disregard if not. I will now go get cozy with a purring kitten and experience perfection. Cheers!

- J

*J, these last couple years of attending events with you have been the most fun and enriching. I am so grateful to have you by my side. - M

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Maira Gall