Even Introverts Can Excel at Networking by Following These Steps

By: Marguerita M. Cheng

The three C's of networking -- Conversation, Connection and Collaboration -- create a context that helps even those most reticent about networking.

Networking builds businesses. It brings in clients and partners and helps businesses grow, but networking can be intimidating and seem overwhelming. I understand that because I'm an introvert. Fortunately, that hasn't prevented me from creating my own network. You don't have to be an extrovert to use social sites, attend networking events or pursue professional opportunities to connect with others. Introverts don't have to be shy.

Debunking networking myths

Networking has a bad rap. People are hindered by awkward networking moments, misconceptions about networking and its benefits, as well as their own self-protective barriers. Here are five networking myths that need to be debunked before you can rewrite your own networking narrative:

1. Networking has not been effective. It's easy to dismiss its benefits when you don't see immediate results from networking. People become discouraged when they don't make any "useful" contacts at an event. What they don't understand is that one meaningful connection can translate into a valuable contact. There might be many people at an event, but the right connection, even if it's not the connection you had anticipated, might prevent you from making a wrong decision or help you accomplish a task that you couldn't have achieved otherwise. Networking might not appear how you expect, but that doesn't mean it's not effective.

2. Networking is only for salespeople. Early in my career, I noticed that people didn't like salespeople. Most everyone has a natural disdain for cold pitches and direct sales. As an introvert, I realized the value expanding my network. Years later, I understand that cold pitches and direct pitches do not constitute networking. You can make connections and conversations without selling anything.

3. Networking wastes time. Networking takes time. That doesn't mean it wastes it. It's an investment of time, and like any investment, it produces over time. Be wise and focused about how you allocate your networking resources, both time and money. Attend events where you're most likely to make the connections that will help your business. If you're a chef, choose events that focus on cooking. If you're a techie, concentrate on forums relevant to your niche. Think about the kind of connections you'd like to make and be strategic about finding the networking opportunities that will provide the most value for your time.

4. I cannot be a good networker. This is where most introverts bog themselves down. Networking doesn't feel natural. We shield ourselves from socially awkward situations by creating a protective barrier of dismissal. If networking is just "not your thing," you can justify retreating into your cocoon by dismissing it as over-rated and irrelevant. The problem is that networking is neither over-rated or irrelevant. Not even for introverts.

5. Networking is a dirty business. Some people associate networking with schmoozing and moving up the political or corporate ladder. They prefer to take the moral high ground and avoid networking for professional gain. In Networking Is a Dirty Business, Maryam Kouchaki, assistant professor of management and organization at Kellogg School of Management, uses research to show how people who associate networking with greed and selfish ambition tend to see it as a moral contaminate. They avoid it like the plague. The truth is that networking isn't schmoozing. Good business is reciprocal, and networking facilitates good business.

The "three C's" that change the networking narrative

The three C's of networking -- Conversation, Connection and Collaboration -- create a context that helps even those most reticent about networking move past these myths and into networking relationships that open opportunities and grow their business.

Conversation

Be ready to engage. Look professional, dress appropriately for the event and relax. You are not schmoozing. Smile and be approachable. A friendly, confident demeanor is attractive. Non-verbal communication is a pre-cursor to verbal communication so make sure you're not sitting in a dark corner or hiding behind your drink with your shoulders humped into your phone. Eye contact, a smile and a firm but warm handshake are all strong non-verbal cues that invite conversation.

Initiate dialogue with simple, non-personal questions like "who catered the event?" to open the conversation space. Be open, show interest in those you're talking to and offer genuine compliments. Have your 30-second elevator speech ready but deliver it naturally and conversationally. You want to provide compelling information about what you do and be prepared to answer questions, but you also want to listen and engage in a way that facilitates establishing a real human connection.

Connections

Networking events aren't card collecting events. The goal is making personal connections. Developing one quality personal connection trumps collecting a short stack of business cards. In his book Power Relationships: 26 Irrefutable Laws for Building Extraordinary Relationships, Andrew Sobel explains how quality connections always win over quantity. A good connection can translate into a good contact. It pays to be selective. Figure out what connections are most relevant to your passions and talents. Develop a list of a "significant few" professional contacts and nurture those relationships by contacting them regularly. Create a secondary list of those you might contact in the future. Then, add all of your connections to your social network and look for ways to engage them on an ongoing basis.

Make emotional connections. Ask questions that invoke thought. Mark Zuckerberg states that you should learn to start where you are. Whether imagined or real, believe that people like you and the world is ready to receive you. Part of making connections is helping people. When you meet people, pay attention to what they say to see if they have a problem you can help solve. Always be generous and willing to help.

Collaboration

Collaboration is a human dynamic that even introverts can take part in. Networking is collaborative. People need your help, and you need theirs. Don't be afraid to offer that help or shy about asking for a favor. You can help people, and they can help you. Leave your comfort zone. Be willing to mix and listen, and to introduce yourself and ask questions. Relationships and careers are built through collaboration.

Collaboration means working with people and organizations. Concentrate on building a network that adds value to your organization and enables you to improve and grow your reputation. Establish networks both with individuals and organizations, so you can maintain a connection with an organization even after individual connections leave a company. Collaboration expands your personal network.

Networking is human, and introvert or extrovert, we're all human. It allows us to help each other, work together and grow along the way by conversing and connecting and collaborating. An old African proverb says it best: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others." Networking helps us get where we need to go… together.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.


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Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Prior to co-founding Blue Ocean Global Wealth, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an Analyst and Editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan. She is a CFP® professional, a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.

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Marguerita M. Cheng

Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Prior to co-founding Blue Ocean Global Wealth, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an Analyst and Editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan. Marguerita is a past spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign and a regular columnist for Investopedia & Kiplinger. She is a CFP® professional, a Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. She serves as a Women’s Initiative (WIN) Advocate and subject matter expert for CFP Board, contributing to the development of examination questions for the CFP® Certification Examination. Marguerita also volunteers for CFP Board Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (DEC) hearings. She served on the Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board of Directors from 2013 – 2015 and is a past president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area (FPA NCA) 


Rita is a recipient of the Ameriprise Financial Presidential Award for Quality of Advice and the prestigious Japanese Monbukagakusho Scholarship. In 2017, she was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100, a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews, and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE®) by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC).


Marguerita’s mantra is “So many people spend their health to gain wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health” (A.J. Reb Materi).

Finding Happiness at Work

By: Laura Berger

The Proven Science of How to Enjoy Your Job

In True Grit, Grace, and Gratitude, I used the term “happy hour” as a constructive and necessary analogy, but I do have a good bit of aversion toward the expression. Why does an hour we reserve to be happy have to be after work? I also have tepid excitement for the sayings “Work hard, play hard,” and “All work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy” because the masses interpret them as having work and play happening at two different times.

My approach to executive coaching is multi-faceted and situation-based, but my greatest mission is to blur the lines between employment and enjoyment. My view of the optimal workspace to which leaders should aspire is one where leaders create, in themselves and their employees, a pervading feeling of drive, purpose, camaraderie, and comfort. Now let’s match the facets of that statement with the brain science behind the human state of happiness.

The article “Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals“ by fellow Huffington Post columnist, Thai Nguyen of theutopianlife.com, sums it up beautifully, identifying the four primary brain chemicals secreted during happiness:

  • Dopamine – Creates motivation. Exposure also produces an addiction to winning.

  • Serotonin – Creates feelings of significance. People with high levels also manifest greater logic.

  • Oxytocin – Creates togetherness. Environments promoting oxytocin are also marked by strong teams.

  • Endorphins – Alleviate anxiety and depression. People with endorphin surges are also ambitious and perseverant.

Take a moment to see how well the bolded words map to my statement of the optimal workplace.

So what levers can we pull to promote happiness? And how do these techniques specifically map to the brain chemistry that makes you and your teams go to work with a big glorious smile?

1. Turn your work into a game

Da Big Kahuna here is Dopamine. Take it from fellow Psychology Today blogger David J. Linden, Ph.D., who showed that the interaction of challenge and success inherent in video games leads to the secretion of great amounts of dopamine, (a.k.a. the pleasure circuit). Dopamine also addictive, achievement begets a further desire to achieve. Just this week, I received an email from a client with whom I had devised a game called “Listen All the Way.” My interviews with work colleagues revealed her habit of interrupting, leading her to decisions based on incomplete information. Having played the game, she reported, “I realize we are often not aligned … and it turned out that their solutions are often better than mine.” She is surprised that her direct reports might have better solutions than hers because she at times forced her own solutions through interruptions. Through the game and a trickle of dopamine, she spontaneously gives herself room to empower her employees to empower her. By the way, when her employee is acknowledged for the solution, that serotonin release creates approval leading to a spontaneous ambition to achieve more, and when the team implements the joint solution, Oxytocin creates a feeling of togetherness. We find these chemicals appear together time and again.

2. Bring laughter to work

There are so many essential benefits that comedy troupes such as Darren Held’s Held2gether Improv for Life have brought forth in training the likes of Google, PepsiCo, MetLife, McKinsey, American Express, DuPont, Ford, and Procter & Gamble. One is that laughter is one of the most effective triggers of endorphins. Many people will dread two hours of continuous work. Put them in a comedy club with an ambitious comic who is slaying the room for the same amount of time, and they’ll fret when it’s over. The primary difference is that endorphins are being secreted, (a.k.a. the second wind chemical). Endorphins, also addictive, give you sudden bursts of energy and a desire to persevere with a task, even through massive amounts of discomfort. This explains how “runners high” is spawned from such an excruciating activity. Too many years ago, I was on a massive enterprise-wide project that was failing badly—until someone kidnapped our project mascot, a doll, and began sending pictures of it in various sordid situations and with injuries. The kidnapper laid out a menu of misfortunes that would befall the mascot as each future milestone was missed. The team found the charade hilarious, shaped up, worked together, and snapped back on track with the milestones with startling efficiency. Incidentally, see serotonin and oxytocin above.

3. Communicate clearly with employees, bring them together, and reward them

How cliché can I get? Well when science proves something out, it should be shouted from the rooftops beyond facial blueness. In everyday life, when we receive hugs and gifts, oxytocin brings us a feeling of togetherness and trust, leading to happiness and stronger relationships and teamwork. Organizations that communicate effectively and reward when clear goals are met have been clinically proven to achieve the same results for employees, bolstered by the research of fellow Psychology Today blogger Paul J. Zak. What’s more, I often encounter personnel of large corporations who meet global service days—where teams take time off to work at community sites—with hints of cynicism, feeling they and the less fortunate are being exploited by the company to enhance its brand. If they dug a bit deeper, however, they’d also find that when properly positioned and organized, these days could just as easily be named global oxytocin days, and their companies might actually be interested in their engagement and happiness as well.

I truly hope that understanding how the basic chemistry of happiness can be triggered during work will create greater incentives for today’s most powerful leaders to remove the dividing line between work and play to catapult our nations global economic effectiveness.


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Featured on ABC News, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Redbook, Self, and the Miami Herald, Laura Berger is a certified executive coach and co-founder of the Berdeo Group. Her clients include leaders at JP Morgan Chase, The Walt Disney World Company, Financial Solutions Advisory Group, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is the co-author of two books: Fall in Love Again Every Day and Radical Sabbatical.

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Laura Berger

Featured on ABC News, in CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and in Redbook, Self, and the Miami Herald, Laura Berger is a certified executive coach and co-founder of the Berdéo Group. She has counseled leaders for 15 years, maximizing their potential in the areas of Evidence based leadership, global operations management, and strategic change management. Her clients include leaders at JP Morgan Chase, Leo Burnett Worldwide, American Hospital Association, Starcom MediaVest Group, The Walt Disney World Company, Financial Solutions Advisory Group, World Business Chicago, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is an in-demand speaker and co-author of two books: Fall in Love Again Every Day and Radical Sabbatical: Could You Say Goodbye to Everything You Know to Get Everything You Want?.