By Rawn Johnson, TSCPA Student Ambassador for the Nashville Chapter
Although the school semester is almost over, the opportunity to network is always just around the corner. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help my fellow introverts go from networking novice to networking pro.
1. Just do it!
The more you invest time in getting out there, attending events, breakfasts, one-on-ones, meetings, etc., the more natural and more fun it will become. Starting is always the hardest and as introverts we know this too well, so get over it and get out there. Yet have a goal or defined purpose for being there; otherwise it will become a chore and you will hate it.
2. Find a wingman/woman
Have you ever expected to know someone at an event and find out you are in a sea of strangers? You probably have and if you are like me, you have probably felt yourself gravitating towards the corner of the room to avoid the situation. But how great would it be if someone swooped in and saved you? Invite a friend or guest to be your wing person. Save as many people as you can in your career and you will be amazed at how many people are willing to reciprocate a favor and will appreciate you for it for a lifetime!
3. Get the RSVP list
This is a must. If you are going to invest your time networking, it better show return. How do you get the RSVP list? Usually it is readily available; you just have to ask. This tip allows you to identify who you would like to meet, reconnect with or be your guest to attend alongside you… think wing person as I mentioned before. Your guest can be your extra set of eyes, a support system and reap the same benefits as you. If you plan and execute, you will be stress-free once you get to the networking event.
4. Be Authentic
Whatever you do, don’t force it. Find what is comfortable for you and focus on it. If you are much better one-on-one or in smaller groups, do lunch, coffee meetings or something manageable. If you love finding as many familiar faces as possible, attend a larger event. Whatever it is, if you are not authentic, people pick up on it and may misinterpret your unease as disingenuous. Also, always pay attention to the person you are talking to and NOT the next one you hope to meet (Trust me - I’ve seen this mistake over and over again at networking events). If you have to divert your attention from someone you are talking to, let them know you are looking for a guest and apologize in advance for being distracted.
5. Make an introduction or a connection
This past fall, I walked into my school’s Meet the Firms event and I was quite overwhelmed until I remembered this tip. I grabbed a friend and introduced them to a speaker I recognized from past networking events. Not only did this help my friend establish a connection with an employer they would not have otherwise spoken to, but it also allowed me to ease into the event while helping a friend. Remember, the smallest favor or introduction to a key person will carry more respect, appreciation and gratitude than you could ever imagine.
6. Again, most importantly my fellow introverts… JUST DO IT!