By Anum Yoon
You just received an invitation to a social gathering or networking event.
But the thought of schmoozing with people, you barely know, fills you with anxiety and dread.
You're not abnormal — you're just an introvert.
Fortunately, having an introverted personality doesn't mean you can't network like a boss. With technology making it easier and easier for people to work from home, you can find many ways to build your network with minimal requirements for leaving the house.
Here are a few tips for thriving in the working world without changing your identity.
Build a Website:
Remember: The World Wide Web is your oyster.
The task may seem daunting, but anyone can build a website. With all of the development tools out there — many of them even free — you don't need to be an expert at fancy code to establish your Internet presence.
Whether you're a writer, a digital artist, a photographer or a marketing guru, the key is to put your work out there. Create a portfolio. You can even upload your resume to show off your credentials. And don't forget to include a photo.
Put a little effort into a nice website, and the next time you receive that event invitation, you won't have to make small talk with strangers. People will know who you are, because your reputation will precede you.
Utilize Social Media:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … the list goes on and on.
But one of the best ways to expand your network connections is to be active on social media.
Social media sites are a great tool if you're often too shy to strike up a conversation with someone in person. After all, you can't take back what you say to a person's face — but if you have a fear of saying the wrong thing, social media has the advantage of letting you take as much time as you need to type — or retype — a response. And when you compose a post or a tweet, you can edit it as many times as you want.
Scope Out the Attendees:
Even as an introvert, you can't stay home forever. But when you do decide to attend that networking event, you can make the most of your time there by looking up influential or interesting attendees in advance.
LinkedIn is a unique form of social media in that it's most commonly used for professional, rather than personal, purposes. A LinkedIn account is essentially your online resume, so it's a great way to communicate your experience, skills and talents to other potential networkers.
If you do have access to the list of potential attendees before the event, you can use LinkedIn to find people with similar interests and backgrounds. Also look for users with a large number of connections, as these people can be a great asset to your networking efforts.
Then, brace yourself, get to the event, and chat up those key people.
Host Your Own Event:
Another way to network without leaving the house is to host your own gathering. Planning an event in your own home keeps you in control of the territory. So if you find yourself involved in a conversation that makes you uncomfortable, you have the luxury of excusing yourself to grab something from the kitchen or pour another drink for your guests.
Hosting your own event also puts you in control of the guest list, so you can invite only those people who would be beneficial additions to your network.
Attend a Conference:
This strategy does require stepping out of the house, but no need to panic. Even an introvert can learn to survive a business conference every once in a while.
Conferences are a great way to build connections with like-minded professionals. At a targeted conference, you don't need to do the guesswork on who may or may not share your interests. Chances are, you're all there for a similar purpose with a specific theme.
You don't have to attend every session, of course. Pick and choose the presentations that appeal most to you and where you're most likely to feel comfortable initiating a conversation with a fellow attendee, because you're educated enough on the topic to speak eloquently and professionally about it.
And whether it's participating in a panel discussion or presenting at a poster session, don't be afraid to get involved. You can show off your knowledge to a large group of professionals in the same room just by volunteering to speak.
Don't Forget to Recharge:
Now you have some starting points for expanding your network without sacrificing your personality. But remember, for the introvert, networking can be hard work, so always take time to re-energize and recover. You want to build your connections, but the downtime is equally important to your physical and mental health.
So take a nap, splurge on that massage or go for that endorphin-boosting run — and this time, all by yourself.
Anum Yoon is a personal finance blogger and writer who loves sharing her hard-earned insights about money management. She leads a green and eco-friendly lifestyle in an effort to do her part in the sustainability movement, as well as to reduce her budget. When she’s not typing away on her keyboard, you can find her at the gym or poring over a new Pinterest recipe. Check out what she’s sharing on Twitter or read her updates on her money blog, Current On Currency.