Introverts Can Network When It’s Not All About Them

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. June 23, 2019
Introverts Can Network When It’s Not All About Them

​LAS VEGAS—Just because introverts value quiet and solitude doesn't mean they can't be good at networking. They just need to go about it differently from extroverts, according to Erich K. Kurschat. He is the founder of Harmony Insights in Chicago and presented the concurrent session "Network Like an Introvert: Valuable Tips for All Personality Styles" on June 23 at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Kurschat is a self-described introvert. He told a story about being on the phone at a store talking with his mother and when he finally said something after a long time just listening, an employee shrieked because she had mistaken him for a mannequin.

Listening is a skill that introverts have in spades but that extroverts sometimes lack, he observed. Good listening skills can pay off at work.

And networking skills are important to have, too, whether they are used to build a larger client base or advance one's career.

Introverts should try to network in a way that feels authentic to who they are. For example, rather than entering a room and having many superficial conversations, an introvert might try to have one meaningful talk with one person, Kurschat recommended. "Success is one conversation," he said.

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Persuading Introverts to Network

Kurschat referenced the DiSC model of human behavior, which explores individuals' levels of dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. People who are dominant tend to be direct. Influencers are the life of the party. Those who are steady are focused and eager to help others, while conscientious individuals are more buttoned-up and professional and tend to be introverted.

It can be difficult to get the conscientious type to attend networking events, as they tend to be more focused on tasks than people, Kurschat said. But that doesn't mean they should be pigeonholed as never wanting to go out, he added.

Introverts often are ambitious and network to a surprising degree in an effort to advance into management roles.

Conference attendee Faith Stipanovich is a senior HR business partner with Matthews Cemetery Products in Pittsburgh, a member of SHRM for approximately 25 years and a member of the SHRM Membership Advisory Council. She said she was surprised to discover after personality assessments were conducted at her workplace that 13 out of 14 managers were introverts.

To improve their networking skills, introverts should try changing their perspective, he recommended. Rather than thinking of meeting others as a way to get something that will benefit themselves, introverts might enjoy networking more if they think of it as a way to help others.

For example, in interviewing for a new job at a job fair, an introvert might ask how he or she could help a company, rather than just focusing on what's in it for him or her.

Networking need not be merely transactional but could be the first conversation on the way to a friendship, he added.

Some introverts don't like networking because it makes them feel like they're in the spotlight. They should try shifting the spotlight to others and ask others to tell them about themselves and discuss why they do the work they perform. That approach will endear introverts to people in a way that wouldn't happen if they instead gave a 10-minute monologue about what they need, he noted.

Other introverts can't stand how scripted networking events can be. So don't follow a script.

Ask the right questions. Kurschat recalled visiting a family that adopted five kids at once. One of the fathers reintroduced the youngest, who was 4 years old, to Kurschat's wife, and asked the child if he remembered she was a teacher. "What do you teach?" the child asked. Kurschat said that if a 4-year-old can ask meaningful follow-up questions like that, so can we all.



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