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UK Career Coach and Creative Business Coach

Effective Networking Tips for Introverts: Overcoming Shyness

Updated: 3 days ago

Networking can be a daunting task for introverts and shy individuals, but with the right strategies, it can become a powerful tool. I've gathered insights from founders and CEOs, among others, to bring you valuable tips and advice. From leveraging online networking to prioritising meaningful connections, discover how to navigate the networking world.

Networking Tips for Introverts to Overcome Shyness

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What is Networking?


Networking is the building, maintaining and sustaining of relationships with other people and businesses who can support you on your life journey and help you achieve your career and personal goals. The goal of networking is to create contacts who can provide support, advice, guidance and opportunities.


Networking can be done online via social media, LinkedIn, online networking events like networking conferences, industry-specific networking, and email mailouts to build awareness and interest. Or in person, which can include breakfast networking with your local chamber of commerce, hosting a workshop, speaking at a seminar or conference, or attending a trade show.


Career cushioning is a popular term right now; simply put, it is an insurance policy that protects individuals from the unseen events of their current role. Our professional networks can gain an insider perspective on a particular company and insights that enable us to access the hidden job market and secure personal recommendations, supporting future and unforeseen career transitions.



How to Network


To succeed in building meaningful connections, you need to have a well-defined plan that outlines the type of connections you want to make and a clear strategy for reaching them.


Start by first identifying your reason for building a network and who your target audience is that supports this goal.


Entrepreneurs use networks to build bridges across weak ties to broaden contacts and acquire and exchange knowledge.


Online Networking Tips

An individual's social networks (SNS) convey an identity by which others can judge. What others can see on SNS assesses one's reputation, position, and authenticity, including decisions on whether to request or decline a connection. So, you need to build and curate a strong social profile that supports this.


Ensure to post regularly and focus on turning weak ties, people you don't know so well, into stronger ones by reposting any posts they make and sending them personal emails when they get a promotion or celebrating a birthday and showing your support for people in your network. Trust and familiarity develop through frequent interactions, increasing the potential of people reposting and recommending the material you post.


My biggest networking tip is to remember that the more you give in networking, the more you'll gain. Focus on providing help and building awareness of others in your networks. This will help you build authentic relationships, which are essential to successfully expanding your network and business growth online or in person.


In-Person Networking Tips

When attending in person, keep your goal in mind. Tools like digital business cards can help you exchange contact information easily with people you meet. Remember always to connect and follow them on social media, and send an email after the event, and let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them. It's also useful to practice an elevator pitch and think of some starter questions to ask, such as what attendees think about the event so far or what their goals are for attending this event.



Why is Networking Important


Building networks helps you connect with people who share information, keeping you up to date on the latest changes and industry trends. Networking skills are fundamental no matter which industry sector you work in. They're key to making industry connections that can help you find work and support you on your career journey. Creating a professional digital presence will help you thrive in today’s rapidly changing world of work.


How to Network for Shy People


Online networking can be an easier entryway for shy people to start networking. Approaching people in person can feel intimidating for many people, but for those who are introverted, it can feel overwhelming. However, networking is a skill, and just like any skill, you can learn it and continue to grow it with practice and experience. You may never lose those butterflies you feel when first walking into a room, but they will get easier, and you will control them rather than them controlling you.


My advice for shy people is to start with online networking. Get used to connecting and interacting with people and talking about yourself. Develop a short elevator pitch from these interactions, and then move to in-person networking to continue your personal growth.


Starting with online networking can help you become comfortable with talking about yourself and sharing your ideas. It can also help you learn how to interact with people and discover what works well and what doesn't.


Embrace Your Unique Strengths

Embrace Your Unique Strengths


Identifying, embracing, and focusing on your unique strengths can be helpful not only to shy people but to anyone. Strengths can be personality traits or skills and experience. They can include qualifications and multilingual skills; they're the things you enjoy and do well. Using self-awareness, define these and mention them when meeting people.


Jon Morgan, CEO of VentureSmarter, explains this further:


"Introverts and shy people who want to succeed in networking should embrace their unique strengths. These types of individuals tend to be great listeners and observers. They should leverage their ability to genuinely engage in one-on-one conversations. Finding a quiet corner or joining smaller group discussions where they can truly connect with people on a deeper level is key. Quality interactions often trump quantity in the networking game.


Setting realistic goals is crucial. Networking doesn't have to be an overwhelming task. Before attending an event, individuals should establish achievable objectives for themselves. Whether it's initiating conversations with three new people or joining a discussion group, having specific, attainable goals can help them stay focused and make the networking experience more manageable and less intimidating.


Following up strategically is important. Introverts often excel in building meaningful connections, so they should capitalize on that strength by sending thoughtful follow-up messages or emails after networking events. Mentioning specific points from the conversation shows that they genuinely value the connection. This not only reinforces the relationship but also helps ease into future interactions, making networking a more comfortable and authentic experience for them."



Ask Open-Ended Questions


If given an attendee list, it can be helpful to research the people attending before going to any networking event and practice introducing yourself and asking and answering questions. Asking open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions can also shift the focus from you to that of the other person.


Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no response. They encourage the respondents to talk about themselves and offer insights about their skills and experience. People enjoy speaking about themselves, and this tool can be a great way to ease into having a conversation with someone. These types of questions shift the focus from worrying about what to say to learning about others.


Closed questioning, on the other hand, is simpler to answer but can quickly end a conversation as they don't open a window for an ongoing discussion and puts the pressure back on you to keep the conversation going.


Fahad Khan, Digital Marketing Manager, Ubuy India, has this to say about asking open-ended questions:


"For quiet or reserved people, asking open-ended questions and listening to the responses is a good way to network. Focusing on the other person instead of oneself may help ease some of the tension and discomfort that accompany social interactions.


In addition to helping others establish rapport, introverts who show genuine interest in other people's perspectives also facilitate others' participation in conversations. Encouraging strong relationships with individuals through common interests and experiences, rather than focusing on my self-consciousness, helped me overcome my shyness."


Prioritise Meaningful Connections


Having meaningful conversations with someone is more than simply asking them questions; it's also about how well you actively listen to them. Active listening is something I use a lot as a coach, and it's a fundamental skill when networking that helps you build meaningful connections. It includes practising eye contact, recognising verbal and nonverbal cues, and paraphrasing and reflecting back what someone has said.


Michael Hurwitz, CEO and Co-Founder of Careers in Government, has this to say about the true value of networking:


"The true value in networking lies in the relationships it fosters rather than the mere act of exchanging business cards. As an introvert or shy individual, understanding networking as a process can help alleviate some of the pressure and make it more manageable. Thus, I highly suggest focusing on quality over quantity when networking. Prioritise meaningful connections and invest time in nurturing them through follow-up communication and genuine interactions. By viewing networking as a journey of building relationships rather than a series of isolated events, introverts can approach it with greater confidence and effectiveness."



Leverage Online Networking First


As mentioned earlier, online networking can be an excellent way to prepare yourself for in-person networking. It allows you to practice and experiment in a safe space with what works and what doesn't and get comfortable with the art of networking.


Bayu Prihandito, Founder, Psychology Consultant, and Life Coach at Life Architecture, describes how this method helped them build their confidence:


"If you are introverted or shy, try to leverage online platforms like LinkedIn to initiate a first connection before attending in-person events. This approach will ease the pressure of face-to-face interactions. For instance, joining relevant online groups or forums and engaging in discussions allows you to establish a rapport and get to know people in a less intimidating environment.


Then, when you attend events, you'll already have a few familiar names and shared interests to talk about, making the whole experience less daunting. This strategy helped me transition from online conversations to in-person meetings more comfortably, gradually building my confidence and network over time."



Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone


When we are feeling stressed or out of our depth, it's essential that any goals we set are realistic and attainable. If we set goals that are too hard or unreachable, we can quickly become demotivated, and this is when goals tend to fall by the wayside. Any goal a person sets should be broken down into smaller, manageable, and achievable stepping stones. In doing so, you build mental resilience and improve your overall well-being with each step you successfully complete.


For example, if your overall goal is to excel at networking, a good first step for introverts would be to set the goal of attending their first event and starting conversations with two people.


Chris McGuire, founder of Real Estate Exam Ninja, explains how stepping outside of his comfort zone helped him get used to in-person networking:


"I have personally encountered my fair share of networking challenges as an introvert. Overcoming shyness was a journey that required self-reflection and stepping out of my comfort zone. One strategy that helped me was focusing on the value I could provide to others rather than solely promoting myself. I found that attending smaller, niche events or joining industry-specific communities allowed me to connect with individuals who shared similar interests and goals. These intimate settings provided a comfortable environment for building meaningful relationships. Over time, I realized that networking is not about being the loudest or most extroverted person in the room, but rather about building authentic connections based on mutual trust and respect."


Reflect and Leverage the Brain’s Plasticity


Dr. Hayley Nelson, Founder and CEO of the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, goes on to say:


"Overcoming shyness involves leveraging the brain’s plasticity—its ability to change and adapt through experience. Engaging in regular, manageable social interactions can help rewire the brain to become more comfortable and adept in these situations over time. For instance, by setting and achieving small networking goals, you can gradually build new neural pathways that reduce the intensity of the stress response in social situations.


Moreover, reflecting on successful interactions and practising mindfulness can help shift focus away from negative, self-critical thoughts, which are often amplified by the brain’s amygdala in social situations. By focusing on positive outcomes and practising self-compassion, it’s possible to reduce the activation of stress-related brain regions and increase feelings of social confidence."


Final Thoughts


Choosing to network as a shy person isn't always an easy choice, but just like any skill, practising it will make it easier. Remember to start small and build your confidence by completing smaller but achievable steps that fuel your motivation and grow your self-confidence. Focus your energy on other people and on building meaningful relationships and connections that help support your current and future growth.


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