Y'all may not believe it, but I am an introvert.
Yes, she who has over 2,000 followers on LinkedIn and who regularly makes connections with new people and who runs a whole clubhouse for people to create connections. That person, yeah, she's an introvert.
Being an introvert does not mean that I don't forking love people.
I loooooove people. I love building close relationships with people. I get a deep and fulfilling satisfaction from helping friends achieve their goals. I believe that connections are the stuff of life. What we even doing here if we aren't forming relationships? Isn't that the whole point?
Ugh, there is nothing that an introvert hates more than "networking." "Networking" was everything I had defined myself against. Relationships for self-promotion. Relationships for gain. Relationships to get something you want. None of that (v outdated) old-school interpretation worked for me.
It shouldn't be surprising then that I tried to avoid it at all cost. I avoided the big conferences, where I preferred to hide in the back of the room. I avoided the semi-social semi-networking happy hour. I avoided a lot, to be honest.
At some point though, I started to figure out that I was doing the whole "networking" thing by default...because I love people and I love connecting with people. Learning to love networking wasn't a thing that happened all at once for me. Instead, it was something that came gradually.
If I could pass along anything, it would be this:
Questions take you everywhere. One of my partner's colleagues is killer at this. She is the best party host because she has figured out the magic of asking questions and being genuinely interested in the answer. Years later, I still remember first meeting her because she asked me questions, was genuinely interested in what I had to say, and found places of commonality from which we could build. I've taken that lesson forward and now try to spend more of my time listening and learning from others. If you're ever stalled in a networking situation, ask someone about themselves. This is the magic to make every happy hour pain free.
Authenticity should be your best friend. I am sometimes too honest about myself, both about my limitations and what I think about the world. I've realized that this authenticity is a strength. I'm never putting on a show when I speak to folks and as a result, anyone I connect with I connect with based on who I actually am. Being open and honest forms rapid connections and it makes continuing to build relationships feel effortless and natural.
Give more than you get. Part of what made my early networking experiences negative was that everyone was trying to figure out what they could get from a relationship. I remember folks asking my job, then literally walking away when they discovered I didn't work somewhere they wanted to apply. Boring (and rude). However, flipping that script has really worked for me. I listen and ask what people are looking for. I try to facilitate connections that will benefit those people. I try to support their goals in whatever way I can.
Learning to lean into what comes naturals to you is the true recipe for building authentic connections.