networking-bookIf you’re like your correspondent, the very word “networking” sends a trickle of terror down your spine.  Even the thought of mingling at a conference fills you with dread.  But take heart!  “Networking” doesn’t have to be a four-letter word.  As Devora Zack admits, while it might never be fun, it can become doable if, instead of trying to mold yourself into an extrovert, you approach it like an introvert.  In this snarky and entertaining guide, Zack details a method that focuses on traditional introvert strengths like planning, listening, and following up, while giving you permission—indeed, ordering you—to recharge by taking plenty of breaks (alone, please) in order to increase the quality of the connections you make.

Instead of trying to collect an impossibly huge number of brief connections, Zack argues, those for whom that doesn’t come naturally should remain true to themselves and concentrate on deeper interactions with those few they identify as good prospects.  That identification often comes from planning.  (Example: Reading up online about the research interests of potential mentors or collaborators before approaching them at a conference’s welcome gathering.)  Once the contact is made, introverts should harness their good listening skills by asking open-ended questions and paying attention to the response.  Then, the next day, follow up with a personalized note referencing that conversation.  Now you’re much more than another barely-remembered name from a conference.

Zack has plenty of other tips for making networking events go more smoothly (and even for how to painlessly turn other interactions, like airplane rides, into networking opportunities).  Chapter Seven suggests arriving early so the room is less crowded and intimidating, and volunteering where possible, because a structured role gives you a reason to step away from the wall and interact with others with a purpose rather than flailing for topics of conversation.  There’s even an entire section on how to make a nametag that makes the best impression.

And guess what?  The advice in this book is just as salient for extroverts as it is for introverts.  Everyone’s networking can benefit from good planning and good follow up.

Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected
Devora Zack
San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler, 2010

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