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3 Tips to Network as an Introvert, Shy Person, or Maybe You're Neurodivergent?

Updated: Mar 22

BTW, These Descriptors Are Not Synonymous.


The List's Quick Hits

  1. Networking isn't just for extroverts(!)

  2. Book reference, Find Your People, Building Deep Community in a Lonely World by Jennie Allen

  3. Extroverts can introduce you to new contacts, offer guidance in social situations, or even accompany you to events for moral support.

  4. Find your medium. A good friend's sister found her bestie on Words with Friends



When I teach networking to an audience, I always start with the question, “Who here loves networking?” I usually get about  2-3 people to raise their hands. Then I followed up with, “Who here has friends?” And I typically get a giggle or two; then, more hands go up. Then I ask, “Who here has a family?” More giggling, but now with confused looks across the room, I confirm with head nods, blushing, and shrugs that most folks have someone to call family in our lives. According to Find Your People, Building Deep Community in a Lonely World by Jennie Allen, 3/5 of Americans are lonely. To me, that means that if someone’s in a workshop about networking, as much as they may hate the idea, they long for human connection. For this reason, I close this part of my networking teachings by calling in that there may be people here who don't have family or friends, and I ask who’s willing to be that person for someone right here and now.  More hands go up with enthusiasm, confidence, and joy. 


Why does this happen?


Many of us want to connect with others when we know they, too, want to connect with us. Yet in some career coaching sessions, when networking comes up, the idea of having to do it can feel forced and fiction.


Networking isn't reserved exclusively for the extroverted. In fact, with mindfulness, meditation, and people learning how to connect in person again, introverts, shy people, and neurodivergent individuals (again, not synonymous) have unique strengths that help us build meaningful professional relationships. 


Here are 3 tips to help you navigate networking confidently and authentically in a loud world.


1 Focus on the depth of a relationship


We extroverts can overextend our networks, ultimately losing sight of the richness of 1:1 deeper relationships, which is more effective networking. According to Find Your People, Building Deep Community in a Lonely World by Jennie Allen, research supports that many of us can only really manage relationships with 150 people. Within those 150 people, the relationships depend on how much time you spend with them, which according to (the researcher) is 50 people. She calls these people acquaintances.  Then there are 15 people in our tighter circle. And after it’s all filled up, there's room for 5 of those people to be our BFFs. 


If you're reading this, embrace your unique qualities and use them to your advantage to a select few. It's hard to imagine focusing on 150 people. So start with just one person. Whether it's active listening, deep empathy, thoughtful observation, or, my favorite, thought-evoking questions, non-extroverts can help us develop genuine connections with others. 

If we work together, I'll teach you how to activate just five people in your network, and they can open up endless possibilities. 


2 Leverage your extroverted friends


Do you have one of those friends who annoyingly goes to an event and says, "I'm tired." While you're at the same event and taking a break with a drink and snacks, you turn around, and they're raving about the 3 people they met on the way to the bathroom. Exposed – I'm that friend. What I've learned about my friends who are non-extroverts, is that it's a gift to be their friend. They've carefully selected their people and (blush) I'm one of them. 


Your extroverted friends can serve as invaluable allies; we want to be allies. We can introduce you to new contacts, offer guidance in social situations, or even accompany you to events for moral support. Pro tip: Give us extroverts particular guidelines and strategize together. Give us a goal and something to strive for, together. For example, let us know if you have the energy to meet only one person. Who's that one person, and why? By leveraging the strengths of both yourself and your extroverted companions, you can create a powerful networking duo. 


If we work together, I will give you my network. You know, I can only truly keep up with around 150. A secret to my sauce? My non-extroverted friends keep in better touch with folks, and they keep me in the loop. Team. Work.


Be Emily, and shine my non-extroverted friends.



3 Find the medium of your choice.

Networking doesn't have to mean attending crowded events or engaging in rapid-fire small talk. Instead, focus on finding networking avenues that align with your preferences and comfort level. Whether it's participating in online forums, joining industry-specific groups on social media, or connecting with professionals through email via newsletter or Instagram DMs, join a walking or hiking group and explore different mediums until you find one that feels natural to you. One of my best friend's sister met her husband playing Words with Friends; she was in California, and he was in Florida. Slowly, they started to chat, then talk; then, they got to know each other. Sure, this isn't a professional connection, but imagine the possibility of saying, "Hello." You might meet your bestie (for life).


And, like I always do, I'll be very honest if we choose to work together. I’ll encourage you to try in-person networking because I’m here to help you develop tools you’ll use beyond our sessions to:


(1) Use at work

According to the MIT Sloan management review and other sources I've read over the years, "... expected face time led to inferences of the traits of being "responsible" and "dependable." Just being seen at work, without any information about what you're actually doing, leads people to think more highly of you. You get labeled when you put in extracurricular face time, too." 


(2) Use as AI has become more a part of lives

If you're nervous about AI taking over all the jobs, human connection is the resistance. 


(3) Leverage workshops to find your people. 

Here’s a tip for going somewhere where others may be just as nervous as you; go to a networking workshop. That's the crowd for you! You learn together, vent about extroverts, you may even find an accountability buddy, and grow a network together. 


Book me as your facilitator, and your network will come to you. How? When you share something like an opportunity like a workshop that’s helpful to others you know, it’s a way to network in a genuine and useful way. 


Networking as an introvert, shy person, or neurodivergent individual presents it’s unique challenges, but with the right approach and mindset, it can also be a rewarding and empowering experience. Embrace different mediums, leverage your support system, and seek networking opportunities that align with your preferences and comfort level. To me, networking is about forging genuine connections and building a supportive community that uplifts and empowers each member. I build community, and I'll help you do the same. 



I'd love to highlight you in C3's blog, The List.


🫣 Hint, my sharing your voice in The List is another way you can network.


Your cafécito lover,

Katherine


Written by an Extrovert with amazingly blunt, Introverted, Shy, and or Nuerodivergent friends and clients. This piece is dedicated to Cathy Dihn, Timi Padojino, and Kathleen Pera. Because of you, I've created coaching sessions for those high-impact voices that take more time and trust to get out. Thank you to my editor, Jay Castro. No AI, just me.


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