Artrepreneurs

How to network as an introvert

July 09, 2021 Michael Der Season 1 Episode 28
Artrepreneurs
How to network as an introvert
Show Notes Transcript

EP 28:  Networking typically favors the outgoing and gregarious personality, but what about the introverts?  How can the seasoned wallflower become a social butterfly?  In this episode, I'm going to provide 5 tips to help you build comfort and confidence in your face-to-face networking.   

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Michael Der  0:02  
You're listening to Artrepreneurs, a podcast that inspires photographers and visual artists to live their best creative lives. My name is Michael Der and I am a full time photographer with nearly 10 years of experience in the freelancing world. And I'm sitting down with an amazing community of visual artists to talk about process, business, and the lessons that have helped them grow. So let's get to it. Artrepreneurs starts right now. 

All right, what is up everybody, welcome back to Artrepreneurs. so thrilled to have you joining us today. Now, over the past few weeks, I've had the great pleasure of meeting up with a lot of friends, a lot of colleagues, something that I haven't done in the past 15 or so months, due to the covid 19 pandemic, maybe you're the same way. And I'll be honest, it was fantastic. It was such a rejuvenating experience for me, because it made me feel like a human being once again, and my personality, it actually fits being an introvert more than it does being an extrovert. So the pandemic really kind of fit my natural style, I was able to read books, I was able to kind of just center myself more so than an extrovert that needed extra attention. That being said, I do think I underestimated how much my mood had actually dropped during that time because of the lack of social interaction. And so lately, I've just been inspired by the friends, the mentors, the colleagues that I've shared time with. And it has gotten me to thinking about the value of face to face networking and how these opportunities may be actually popping up once again. Now in my particular situation, these meetups I had were as carefree as carefree could be, there's no pressure to stand out, no pressure to impress anybody or to land a job. But it got me thinking about those uncomfortable positions where you do feel like you're kind of on the spot, maybe you're headed to a workshop surrounded by artists, or maybe you're at a lunch with other industry professionals with a lot more experience than you. Or maybe you're at an actual networking event with people that have the power to hire you. So whatever scenario it may be, it's hard not to feel like you need to stand out in some way, which for many of us, doesn't fit our personalities very well. So for every person who loves being the life of the party, there may be 10 or 20 of us who just want to disappear from this situation. So my goal today is to help those who hate being in the social environments to sort of enjoy being in the social environment. And hopefully from that, you'll find more opportunities as you grow your ability to organically network. 

Now for me, the obvious disclaimer is that I am not a networking guru, I want to put that up front. In fact, I'd probably register at a five or six if I'm grading myself honestly on a 10 point scale. I've never had a magnetic personality that can take over a room I have very few hilarious anecdotes if at all to disarm strangers with an overall I have a strong case of imposter syndrome that prevents me from being totally fearless in any social setting. So fantastic news, right? I mean, here I am saying I can help you win. I have just listed off all the reasons why I am ill equipped to do so. But Fret not. It does take a person sometimes someone who is not a natural schmoozer to seek out tactics and strategies that make these practices tolerable. And that is what I have done today. So from one awkward introvert to all the rest of my fellow entrepreneurs, here are my five tips to those of you who absolutely hate networking in person. 

Number one, stop calling it networking. All right, so this is gonna sound a little bit odd because this whole episode is about networking. So why would I actually tell you to stop using the word networking. And to me the word implies an agenda. It implies leveraging people as assets, and therefore, it becomes somewhat disingenuous and maybe even manipulative. At the very least, it's putting on a front a facade in your presentation. And as an introvert, all that does, is heighten my insecurities because it's effectively telling my brain, I'm not good enough as is. So I have to become someone else, if I want to get something out of this. Now there's this great article in Forbes that demonstrates how the word networking negates the value of making connections. Because networking by definition infers and exchange a transaction connection, on the other hand, by definition, in first linking or joining, and so the power and connectivity is really what we should be emphasizing. To alleviate that pressure. The author states, "it is common knowledge that most of us get nervous just thinking about attending an event where we are expected to interact with complete strangers. Even the most experienced salesperson takes a few deep breaths before making cold calls. What we call networking is essentially making cold calls in person isn't it simpler to think about building relationships and making friends than it is to worry about selling something or what the ROI is going to be?"  

So with that being said, as simplistic as it may seem, I am a believer in the power of words. And the weight of the word networking has never really sat well with me. It brings on a whole new level of pressure that I think is actually rather unnecessary. Every time I've gone into a setting, thinking about networking has ended up in failure and feeling like a failure, which I would argue is actually worse. Every time I've gone into a setting, thinking about connection, I've come away with a richer experience, I've been able to find common ground faster, create more unique conversations, and even show my personality and sense of humor. So by merely changing your vocabulary, you can change your outlook. By changing your Outlook, you can change your approach. And when you change your approach, you just might change your results. 

Number two, to be interesting, you must be interested. So when it comes to standing out in a crowd of people, particularly if you don't consider yourself to be the most artistically talented, or even the most accomplished, the best path to leaving an impression is through your interactions. And believe it or not to be interesting, you don't have to be the funniest person in the room. You don't have to be that charismatic, or charming, or even a good storyteller. All you really need is to be interested in the person or people that you are talking to. It's really that simple. Be curious about somebody's background, ask them questions about their experiences, and what they've learned through that process. I'm often taken aback when people tell me that they had such a great experience talking to me on the podcast, because the reality is, I don't do a lot of talking during the interviews. I really just listen. And I follow up with questions. But everybody wants to be heard, everyone wants to share something, everyone wants their thoughts to be validated. And by giving that person the platform by not interjecting with your own response, and instead just being curious and invested in that person's thoughts and feelings, you've actually developed a stronger connection with that person,

despite you not having said anything at all. No, I do want to preface that not all questions are created equal. Oftentimes, when we're nervous, we settle for common questions that spark no intrigue. Instead, we rely on those common tropes, like, what do you do? Or where are you from? Or what's the weather like where you live. And if our objective is to truly connect with people, we have to dive a little deeper than that. Which brings me to my next tip. 

number three, talk less about work and more about passion. Alright, so the most common default for people is to talk shop when around their colleagues, which I'm not condemning. It's a natural part of the conversation, when you have expertise in something. I mean, it's vulnerable, being in conversations that you have nothing to contribute, have you ever been pulled into a political conversation that you have no knowledge on? What about being a non sports enthusiast who somehow is on the outskirts of a deep conversation on fantasy football, we are all comfortable talking shop, because that is where we can contribute the most to. But I want to emphasize that connection should be more than just work connection should be about passion, interest and drive. When you focus on someone's passions, you get a far greater sense of who that person is. So instead of just reaching for that automatic, what's your next job question, which really doesn't inform you of anything? Ask them instead? Is there a project that you want to tackle next? And think to yourself, what question do you think is going to yield them more excited response? I'm going to go ahead and guess that they're going to say question number two, what project Are you excited for? So let's say you ask somebody about a project that they want to do next. And that person lights up and says, Oh, I want to do a photoshoot with a jazz musician. That information gives you so much ammunition to follow up with, you can ask them. Oh, do you have a background in music? What's your favorite instrument? What locations? Are you thinking about? Do you have any influences that inspired you to take on that project? How cool do jazz players Look, when they're all decked out in that dapper attire? And the more conversation that you're churning up, the more responses that you're getting? One of my favorite things to do when I'm in a conversation where someone is really excited, is to follow up with an observational statement that acknowledges and validates that passion. So it can be as simple as something like, it seems like you really love jazz, I can tell this hits home for you. These are statements, they're not questions, but they're going to yield a great response. And it will come from the person you're engaging with, because you're reading between the lines. You're listening first, and you're responding. Second. And the great part is these questions don't have to be work related. You don't always have to talk shop, you could use the same principle and ask someone, hey, do you have any dream vacation on the backburner? Whatever their responses, they're going to provide you with something to bounce back with? If they say, Yeah, I always wanted to go to France, then you can ask them great, what meal? Are you looking forward to the most when you get there? Have you ever tried making that at home? What about a wine pairing? And when they respond with excitable answers, I provide another observational statement that validates that I'm not just listening to them, but I'm picking up what they're passionate about. I might say, I think you're gonna love it there. It seems like you've really got the heart of a chef. And then they respond. Of course, yes, I love to cook. And now the conversation keeps going and it keeps evolving. And soon enough, you're going to pull someone into your zone of comfort and what you're interested in making this stand out more than the casual work interaction that they're accustomed to. So if you're feeling like the casual work conversation is getting pretty stale, just remember to try to navigate that and get someone thinking about what they're excited to do next. 

Number four network alone. Alright, so this is going to sound a little bit counterintuitive to those who feel awkward and out of place. But I honestly believe that going to networking events by yourself sort of forces you to acclimate to your surroundings because you don't have an out. If you go with a friend, you just end up hanging out with your friends. Which alienates you from everyone else, if you go solo, you'll be so terrified of the stand in a corner alone syndrome, that you might just Buck up and socialize to avoid isolation. And again, I want to remind you that I am an introvert, it is not natural for me to go up to people and introduce myself. But every time I've gone to a workshop, or a meetup or a seminar by myself, I end up talking to way more people guaranteed every single time I move around more, I asked more questions to people around me, I just get in more social reps than I do when I'm with someone I know. And for me, getting to a social rhythm is huge. The longer I'm at an event, not talking to people, the more likely it is I'm going to stay that way. The faster I get into a rhythm of engaging with people, the more energetic I become, and the more energy and attention I actually draw to me. So consider forcing yourself into situations where you have to network aka Connect alone, you might just find out that it changes the game for you. 

Number five, don't take setbacks personally. So there is a reason why I didn't say don't take anything personally, which is a very common idiom. And the reason why I say that is because I believe there are actually things that you should take personally, like when somebody laughs at your jokes, or compliments your work or asks for your contact information so that they can keep in touch, you should be taking those things to heart, don't dismiss the small wins. And the problem that I had for years is that I took all these setbacks, all these failures, all these criticisms to heart. While I ignored anything that was positive or complimentary, I had to realize that I had it completely ass backwards. Now. I take all the negative feedback and they put it in the back of my mind, all the good stuff I put at the forefront of my mind. And yeah, they're going to be setbacks, they're going to be times when a person or a group of people makes you feel small, or that you don't have a seat at the table, just realize that that is more about them than it is about you. You don't have to take an L for that. In fact, I would see it as a win. anyone that wants you to feel insignificant is not someone you should want to connect with. In fact, they did you a favor by making that relationship obvious. Now you can move on, connect with people that inspire you and build a tribe that makes you feel like you always have a seat at the table. 

Alright, so let's review for this episode. Number one, change your definition of networking to connecting it is a more accurate reflection for what you are aiming to do. You're not trying to create transactional relationships here, you're trying to build connecting relationships. Number two, to be interesting, you must be interested, focus on what makes the other person tick, ask questions and give that person the floor as Stephen r covey states seek first to understand then to be understood. Number three, talk less about work and more about passion. Shop talk is unavoidable but it shouldn't be relied on only find out what people are looking forward to doing outside of work to develop more meaningful conversations. Number four, don't be afraid to network alone. Now, as I say this, I should say Connect alone. But that phrase seems a little bit oxymoronic. And now that I'm saying it out loud, the phrase networking alone is as well, but I'm too far into the recording to go back. So

forget it. I'll just assume that you understand the point. The point is, don't be afraid to approach these situations by yourself. It's actually going to force you to engage more with people than if you had a friend. And lastly, number five, don't take setbacks. Personally. You're not always going to get the job. You won't always make an impression. And you may be outshined by somebody else. That's totally okay. If you repeat steps one through four, you're going to win more than you will lose. 

So that is going to wrap up this episode. Folks, I hope this helps you in your networking going forward. Big shout out to all your entrepreneurs for tuning into this show and for sharing our content. Please keep it coming. let someone know to check this podcast out. You can follow us on Instagram at @Artrepreneurspod and to check out our website at  Artrepreneurspod.com This is Michael Der signing off for now. Take care of yourself, everybody and I'll see you next week. 

Hey everybody, this is Michael Der thank you so much for making it all the way to the end of the episode. I hope you'll follow tag and engage with us on our Instagram account at Artrepreneurspod. We've also launched our website Artrepreneurspod.com . It is the central hub where you can sign up for our newsletter, read our blog posts, send us voicemails, and even access discounts from our amazing affiliates. It's also the perfect spot to shout out Artrepreneurs with what would be an immensely appreciated five star rating and review. And if you're feeling extra generous, you can even make a small donation that's really going to help accelerate the growth of this podcast. But no matter what you do, folks, I just want to say thank you so much for supporting this program. There are a lot of great photography podcasts out there and I am just grateful to have gained your trust even for a moment. Take care everyone. See you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai