HI! I am Poojana and I am student of visual communication. I wanted to know about networking and how important it is. I am sort of an introvert and so I hesitate to talk to new people. A lot of people advice that it is good to meet new people in the the design field as you will grow as a person, along with other benefits. So, how do I go about this?
From my experience, networking is incredibly important. It’s good to network within the creative community, it’s good to network with clients, and it’s good to network with business and thought leaders.
Can you have a career without being an avid networker? Sure. Is your career going to be easier with a solid network? In my opinion, absolutely yes.
I live in a mid-sized city, and business gets done here based on who you know.
All of that said, I am a huge introvert, but I am perfectly comfortably walking up to someone at a networking event, sticking my hand out, introducing myself, and jumping into a conversation.
How do I do it? This may sound crazy, but I have to rest ahead of time so I am going into the event with energy. During the event, I assume the mentality of an extrovert. Afterwards, I’ll retreat to my design cave for some alone time and regroup.
You can be a functional introvert. You are who you are. Be glad your an introvert. But don’t use it as an excuse.
I’m not introverted online, but in person, I’m very introverted. It’s always been a liability that I’ve struggled with in a world so seemingly full of extroverts.
To an introvert, networking tends to bring up visions of crowded places and walking up to complete strangers, introducing oneself, making shallow connections, being vivacious, then repeatedly doing it all over again, and again and again. These are the situations that introvert nightmares are made of — and it gets even worse if shyness is part of the equation.
After thinking about it and observing others for years, though, I don’t think what I just described is what networking is all about. Instead, I think networking, for an introvert, has more to do with just being open, friendly, smiling at others, being approachable, reaching out to others similar to yourself and making acquaintances in a natural kind of way.
If you take this much less scary and more comfortable approach, over time, you just get to know people who know others, and things just start to naturally happen. It doesn’t need to be forced and shallow. It can be genuine, but it takes time and sometimes it means pushing oneself just a bit out of one’s comfort zone.
I’ve found that detaching myself from my emotions can help. It’s hard to describe, but instead of simply fighting or giving into my anxiousness over meeting others and being overwhelmed and drained, I simply acknowledge these things, take a step back and dispassionately examine what I’m feeling and asking myself what these feelings are about.
Sometimes, just the distance of intellectually separating myself from the physical sensations is enough to enable me to make more logical decisions about choosing to move forward or choosing not to and trying again at another time. It’s a matter of making deliberate choices instead of forcing oneself to move forward or simply giving in.
If crowds drain you, fine. Take a break and recharge. If it’s too intimidating to walk up to someone you don’t know, make the decision not to, then dispassionately examine the emotions you were feeling at the time. Maybe after thinking it through, it won’t be quite as difficult the next time. It might never come naturally, but with some practice, it becomes a skill that you can use when needed.
Most important is the absolute fact that being an introvert has huge advantages, along with some disadvantages. I’m totally amazed sometimes by some people’s ability to effortlessly meet others, enjoy parties and make friends wherever they go. My wife is an extrovert, and I honestly am amazed by how naturally it all comes to her and how she enjoys it all with out reservation. Even though I would love to have some of those abilities, if it meant giving up the advantages and qualities that I have as an introvert, I would absolutely not make the trade.
Please read this article from the New York Times:
Also listen to this TED talk by the author of that article:
I really enjoyed her book The Quiet Revolution. Introversion can be a kind of superpower, if you work it right. Being an introvert, I’ve always lacked the quantity and quality of socialization experiences that extroverts have. So I’m not much of a talker, but missing those experiences drives my curiosity and makes me an outstanding listener. And that’s what most extroverts want… someone to listen to them. They can have a hard time getting that from other extroverts.
Graphic design is an industry that attracts a lot of introverts. People wash out of it because they don’t have the ability to sit down, shut up, be thoughtful, and work. The need for social interaction distracts them from working.
The OP might also be interested in Elaine Aron’s books on highly sensitive people.