Fake It 'Til You Make It: Networking for Introverts
If you're going to succeed as a lawyer, you need to network.
For extroverts, networking is a piece of cake. For introverts, networking is a piece of cake iced with hot sauce and cayenne pepper. It. Is. Painful. And it causes profuse sweating. (Er ... that's what we hear from a friend.)
How do you stop turning into a sweaty wreck, and make the connections that will help your practice grow? Fear not: There are a few workarounds.
- Be a Good Listener. So you don't like talking about yourself. Or talking to strangers at all. Luckily, many people like nothing more than to talk about themselves. Boston.com's Job Doc suggests that introverts can leverage their superior listening skills in networking situations.
- Do Your Research. Much like a court appearance or a client meeting, you can prepare for a networking event, according to Inc. 500. Google the people that you need to meet. If they have blogs or Twitter accounts, you can get an idea of what topics interest them, and steer the conversation toward those topics.
- Eliminate the Competition. If you're intimidated by the prospect of glad-handing your way through a room full of strangers, set up a one-on-one meeting over coffee or drinks. Better yet, ask a mutual friend or acquaintance to facilitate an introduction.
- Make Eye Contact. True story: A seemingly-outgoing college classmate was terrified of talking to women he didn't know. He had a habit of diverting his gaze from women's eyes to their necks because he didn't want to "stare them down." He would have been better off going with too much eye contact because most girls thought he was checking out their racks (that's bad). Eye contact conveys engagement and confidence. Perceived chest-checking just makes you seem creepy.
- Develop Your Alter Ego. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan has his on-field alter ego, Tony Plush. Beyoncé developed her Sasha Fierce alter ego to overcome shyness. Lady Gaga told Rolling Stone that she wakes up in the morning feeling "like any other insecure ... girl," before reminding herself, "Bitch, you're Lady Gaga, you better f*****g get up and walk the walk today." There's nothing wrong with creating an alter-ego to overcome your networking stage fright; just be sure that the character you present is an amplified version of yourself, rather than a legal caricature.
Networking can be scary, but it's worth the
blood, sweat and tears if it generates new business for your practice. Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, it's time to steel yourself and get out there for the sake of your career and walk the walk.
And if you need a drink first, that's okay, too.