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Networking for Shy People

DATE: 5/8/2016
Whether you are looking for a job or climbing the corporate ladder, the timid inside you may come in play and keep you tong-tied when you're supposed to meet new people. Some of us would just not want to leave their comfort zones.

"Find an excuse and run away from here!", says that introvert self of yours, pushing you from inside. Probably we have all had this feeling at least once in our lives. Then what should we do once engulfed by this feeling?

Especially the Turkish culture harbors some unconscious bias about meeting new people and maintaining relations*:
“Don't talk to strangers”
“Give them an inch and they'll take a mile”
“Trust no one”

These phrases may have served as life savers in the past century. However, in this rapidly globalizing world, Networking has become an indispensable practice that helps people keep in touch and find common fields to connect.

You have achieved where you stand today thanks to the contributions from many contacts, experiences and people. Moreover, our achievements and failures have almost become measurable concepts. According to Keith Ferazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone, the secret of success is in the following formula: 

“People you know ” + “What you create hand in hand with these people” 

This is why the path to success is possible with Networking. 

Well, have you ever made a U-turn from the door of a place filled with hundreds of unfamiliar people, even though you are aware of the power of connections? 

You are lucky if not. However, we have some tips for those "U-turners" and those who shy away from taking a step inside unfamiliar environments. 

Research show that the number one obstacle for timid people is what they think of themselves. Stay away from the rigid self reflections like "you'd be shy" or "you'd turn tail". See things in a new light that networking is actually a skill you can improve. 

To overcome shyness in networking:

1- Get prepared. 
Getting prepared would make you feel more comfortable. Master all the details about an event you'll attend. What's on the agenda? Who are the panelists? What is their story? What about their backgrounds? etc.

Find out who will be there and what you want to talk about with them. Refresh yourself about the current issues and developments.

Make sure to determine prior to the event how you'll introduce yourself and the sentences you'll use in the furtherance of a contact.

2- Start with smaller groups of people.
Once you arrive at the event venue, the number one step is to enter a room filled with people.  It is actually the half way to Networking! Congratulations, you have not made your way out of the place! Check out your surroundings to see if there is anyone you already know. If there is, you can head towards the group with more familiar faces. If not, don't shy away from introducing yourself to a smaller group.

3- Observe.
Observe eye contacts, body languages and the questions asked throughout a conversation. They will all reveal key tips before you introduce yourself to someone new.

4- Pick your meeting points.
There will definitely be some spaces specifically allocated for coffee where people can chat more easily and feel more comfortable to introduce themselves. You can find such areas for your first networking attempt. Get yourself a coffee and join the conversation.

5- Keep in mind the top five networking tips
According to research, a little bit of effort to push yourself into a group will prove effective for the rest of your experience.

Just muster up some courage, extend your hand, introduce yourself, ask what your encounter has come here for, and find out their occupation. Be assured that the rest will flow naturally. The more you repeat this, the more comfortable you'll feel. You can even realize that even though you're not much of a talker, some newly-started conversations move on swiftly and effortlessly.

Don't forget the five golden steps from the classic How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie:
2-Ask questions
3-Be a good listener
4-Present your business card, if available
5-Remember names and call them by their names
6- People like talking about themselves, their fields of interests and their own opinions. All you need is simply taking the first step to introduce yourself, asking a couple of questions and being a good listener. 

Please watch out the following in overcoming shyness:
1- Don't let your concerns control you. 
Don't give up right after you see an unfamiliar group of people.

2- Don't be afraid of making mistakes.
It is a well-known fact that the best conversations are those that flow naturally and effortlessly. Don't be afraid of stammering. You'll communicate more comfortably once you stop actively paying attention to whether or not you make sense.

3- Don't spend the rest of the day with the first person you meet.
Yes, you've met and found common things to talk about. But it is time to build new contacts. After expressing your pleasure, try to have a similarly successful conversation with another person. Don't forget the secret to success in Networking: practice, practice, practice

4- Don't force yourself to further a conversation that does not flow.
If it does not flow, or if you feel that the other may not be interested in what you're sharing, don't insist on creating something effective out of it. Excuse yourself and leave.

Remain nice and kind. “It was a pleasure to have met you. Thank you again for this nice conversation" may be your sentence to leave.

Don't let the timid inside you keep you back from being successful in looking for a job and/or achieving your goals. Just take the first step, and the rest will flow naturally.

Get prepared as explained above and shake yourself off to meet new people. You'll see networking becomes easier and more comfortable. 

*Ertugrul Belen, Networking: The Art of Meeting, Referring and Getting Known, Optimist Publications
Keith Ferazzi, Never Eat Alone, Crown Business
Dale Carnegie, Winning Friends and Influencing People, Pocket Books

Business Networking Academy (with the contributions of Ozge Onsen Belen)