“How Do You Do And Shake Hands”
– Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Alice in Wonderland
I always feel a little bit like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum when I network. It has never come naturally to me and I doubt it ever will. I feel so out of place and forced in an environment when I’m supposed to be shaking hands and handing out business cards.
So how does someone in my shoes become successful in business? How can I get my face and name out there to people who can further my career and open more opportunity for me? Well it’s not easy…
Often times when I have an opportunity to network, I have to use my Acting 101 skills and put on a confident face. Just because I’m an introverted person, doesn’t mean I lack confidence, but rather that my confidence lies quietly within. It is not within my personality to flaunt that confidence for anyone else since, for me, it only matters what I think of myself.
One thing that I have come to know is that a smile can go a very long way. My parents blessed me with a mouthful of pearly whites, so the smiling comes much easier for me than speaking out loud. A smile can also be your introduction. Once you smile and make eye contact with another person, usually the barrier falls and the actual introductions and conversations come much more naturally. Put on that happy face.
Introversion Equals Great Listener
One thing that I feel really draws people to me is that I am fine with sitting and listening to people…really listening. I often have people telling much more than I expect because they seem to feel free to open up to me.
This can work to my advantage in networking as well! When networking becomes too forced, some might feel like they’re shaking endless hands for no genuine reason. I think people really just appreciate being heard. If I can show a true interest in the people I meet, there will be a more solid relationship to stand on when opportunities arise.
Finding Comfort in the Uncomfortable
As my yoga mantra comes into play – I have to find the comfort in the uncomfortable. I have to be able to put myself out there knowing that these situations are a bit awkward for everyone. Yes, there are those who are very good at networking, but I have to accept that I have to practice the art of networking and be okay when it doesn’t always play out how I’d like. My best bet is to stay humble and genuine.