You know how important networking is for your career—any career. Trouble is, you absolutely loathe it. Big crowds of people, mingling, small talk, sales pitches… the whole idea makes you queasy. Can’t you just stalk people on LinkedIn from the comfort of your couch and sweatpants and call it square?
Unfortunately, networking is too crucial to avoid. But there are four things you can do, even as the most introverted introvert in all of introversion, to put a smile on your face, pull up your grown-up underpants, and start schmoozing.
1. Say yes
Networking event? Cocktail hour invite? DELETE. IGNORE. RUN AWAY. Right? Wrong. Remember how important it is to make connections in the business world. Try saying yes to every other invite you receive. Or every three. The more you go to, the easier they’ll get. Remember: it’s good for your career.
2. Acknowledge the awful
You’re probably still going to hate it. Changing your attitude—and your R.S.V.P.—won’t make that big of a difference in your actual enjoyment of these events. But knowledge is power. If you prepare yourself to be a little uncomfortable, a little ill at ease, but to grin and bear it and know that it won’t go on forever, you’ll have a better time.
3. Prepare a survival kit
Like an uncomfortable actor fiddling with a prop, make yourself a tool kit. Have a nice briefcase you can use as a shield. Fill it with copies of your resume, business cards, pens, Rescue Remedy, breath mints, a book. You’ll be the go-to savior if anyone should need a writing implement. And you can always busy yourself with the contents of your bag when things get awkward and you have to retreat into a corner. Plus, you’ll be prepared for anything and never once caught with your pants down (read: without a resume or business card to give someone when asked).
4. Reward yourself
Even in the best of circumstances, networking events can take a lot of energy. Plan to give yourself a buffer of some quality alone time before and after the event. Reward yourself with a Netflix marathon and a box of mac and cheese. Put your phone on silent and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Remember, when in doubt (or terror, or discomfort) you can always hide out at the snack table or the bar. Who knows, you might even run into a fellow introvert and have a pleasurable conversation.
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