If the thought of networking makes you want to hide under your chair, you've ever faked a migraine to avoid a networking event, or you've actually worried yourself sick with anxiety before an event, you're not alone. As an introvert, it took me years to find a method for networking that felt more like a positive opportunity for growth and less like a root canal!

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I have a confession: I hate networking…or at least what I thought networking was in college when it was emphasized as being so critical to having a successful career. The bottom line is that networking is important, even if 19-year-old Kelly rolled her eyes every time it was mentioned.

My Experience with Networking as an Introvert

Since I founded D20 Theory in 2018, I have pushed myself to make new connections to benefit the brand. As much as I enjoy independent successes, I realized I can go further with the support of a community, so I made a goal to expand my tribe of like-minded, multipassionate millennial women.

Why do I dislike traditional networking?

  1. I’m shy and can be a little awkward around new people. I don’t like to put myself out there and potentially say something stupid or offensive, even though I’m educated, empathetic, and the last person anyone would describe as offensive.
  2. I prefer one-on-one conversations with people I know well and structured, small-group activities with people I don’t know well.
  3. I’m an introvert and a learner, content to observe dynamics and conversations rather than actively engage in groups. I even took a small group dynamics class in undergrad!
small-group networking

What Don’t You Like about Networking?

If you want to get past your fear or dislike of networking, you have to identify the reason why you feel the way you do. Why do you cringe or roll your eyes at the first mention of networking? Different people have different reasons for their aversion to networking.

Reflect on these common networking stressors:

  • You have anxiety in group settings.
  • You don’t feel like you belong in a room of people who are so much more “successful” than you are.
  • You don’t feel like you have something to contribute to the conversation or know what to ask others.
  • You don’t have an outfit that makes you feel confident.
  • You dislike events with too much or too little structure.

Once you identify your unique reasons, you can develop solutions to address them. It may be as simple as buying a new outfit that boosts your confidence, but if it’s a little more complicated, read my tips below.

Pro tip: If cheeky graphic tees are your signature style, try pairing one of these shirts from Alley and Rae with a pencil skirt, and you’re ready for your next event. (Hint: Use my link for 10% off your purchase!)

Photo: Alley and Rae

Need a little more help with your wardrobe? Check out my girl Liz, the Self Love Stylist at Liz Wears What, for help finding outfits that boost your confidence in any situation, for any body type.

Tips for Introverts to Thrive at Networking

  1. Find the right event. Only attend events and join communities that makes you feel comfortable. Not all networking events are created equal. Consider these options: virtual or in-person; intimate venue or large conference; structured or open-format; all-women or coed; all ages and levels of experience or your demographic; specialized in your field or open to anyone in the region. My favorite groups for women in the Philadelphia area are SHE x SHINES and The Naked Network. They both also began offering virtual experiences when COVID hit, so you can join from anywhere in the country.
  2. Minimize the barriers to entry. Get yourself in the door by making commitments to yourself that you’re likely to keep. Purchase a ticket to a paid event, lay out your new outfit on the bed (accessories and all!), make yourself a pre-event dinner reservation at a restaurant right around the corner from the venue, and decide on a plan for parking or public transportation in advance. The more work it takes to “undo” all of the steps you took to prepare for the event, the less likely you are to cancel.
  3. Set a goal. Know your reason for networking, whether it’s. When you have a goal, you can focus on ways of achieving that goal rather than how much you don’t like networking. Whether you want to gain exposure for your side hustle or learn about employers in your industry, having a goal is important. Your goal will guide your conversation so you don’t get stuck in a loop of dreadful small talk. You’ll always feel more comfortable sharing about your passions and interests than the weather, appetizers, or (eek!) politics.
  4. Ask questions and listen. Extroverts like to talk, and you (an introvert) like to listen. That’s actually a good thing! Keep the conversation going by doing what you do best. The talkers will be happy to not have to compete for the spotlight, and you will enjoy listening and learning.
  5. Don’t be afraid to step away. If you’re not feeling the event, it’s okay to leave. You tried something outside of your comfort zone, and you learned from the experience. You have permission to define success however you want!

Pro tip: The best way to find the right event is to read reviews from past attendees, browse photos on social media to get an idea of the vibe, and reach out to the event organizer with questions if you’re still unsure. As an event organizer myself, I am happy to answer questions and welcome new members into the D20 Theory community.

It’s important to me that D20 Theory events are introvert- and extrovert-friendly with just the right balance of structure in a small-group setting. Does that sound like fun or what?! You can check out our upcoming events here.

networking for introverts

I recommend the Overwhelm Reduction worksheet to my coaching clients when they tell me about their experiences with anxiety related to networking events, job interviews, and everyday stress. Click here for a sneak peek at the worksheet that has helped so many multipassionate women overcome their feelings over overwhelm.

If you’re still feeling frustrated with your relationship with networking, I would like to invite you to schedule a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call with me. I’ll help you identify and work through the roadblocks you’re experiencing so you can develop an action plan to move forward.