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An introvert’s guide to networking

Mar 11, 2022

9 tips anyone can use to build their network, the introvert way

Does anyone else look back at college and wonder what the heck they were thinking?

I doubt I’m alone in this but I look back and wonder how that knucklehead ever became today’s knucklehead.

I’d come to college with a partial scholarship, which they took away as soon as they could.

Despite losing the “free money,” I still continued living an oblivious life.

Work, school, play.

Work, school, play.

I had a wake-up call second semester of sophomore year. I had a friend or two taking internships at accounting firms around the state. What are these internships, I asked?

Before that, I don’t believe it ever dawned on me something might be required of me before graduating. I said I was oblivious, right?

At that point, it was too late in the process to have a chance, so I went and worked for a pest control company for the summer.

My junior year was going to be different, though.

I signed up for interviews, hoping to get one of those coveted internships.

But as the process started, I realized that summer was going to be no different.

You see, that first 4 semesters of bad grades will come back to bite you. Needless to say, I wasn’t anyone's top target.

I’m thankful I had a connection who let me come “intern” for the summer. This internship was fancy, let me tell you. As my friends all got experience traveling and going to on-site visits with clients, I got to sit in a cube and clean up a database, then make cold calls to lawyers.

It was at this point that I realized I’d been my own worst enemy.

Despite this, I did get a job. Then another. But it wasn’t till 4-5 years into my career that I realized I needed to take responsibility for my relationships.

Early on I’d gotten to know 2 VPs of a billion-dollar company. Despite them investing in me, I never asked any questions or built any sort of lasting relationship.

It wasn’t until 5 years after the last contact that I realized how stupid that’d been.

But, through intentional practice over the last 10+ years, I’ve built a network that has resulted in job offers, consulting opportunities, or just cool connections.

Here are the strategies I used to overcome my early mistakes and build a network I’m proud of (as an introvert, no less).

Connect on social media

Cold contact at least 1-2 people a month. I’ve done this for years and the worst thing that has happened is being ignored.

I think it’s common to have the vision of someone being upset by the ask, but the reality is people like it when you’re interested in them.

People hate being sold to, especially early in a relationship. But if you build a friendship first, they’ll actually do selling for you. Determine what you’d like to learn from them then send a simple and short message that tells them:

  • why you want to connect

  • that you have nothing to sell

  • one thing you're interested in learning from them

Ask your current network to make connections for you

The game was 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon (google this if you’re too young), but I really think it could be 3 degrees of Kevin Bacon now.

If you’re willing to ask for help, you’ll likely find someone who can help you.

Plus, warm connections are 10x (scientific number) more likely to respond than cold ones.

You have 2 options

  1. Ask current connections for help

  2. Find someone you desire to learn from then search for a connection

Ask your current network if they can help you:

  • learn a new skill

  • fulfill a current need

Even if you don’t directly ask for an introduction, their answer will likely lead to one.

But, I like the second strategy better because I can initiate your own warm connection. The lengths I’ll go to avoid talking to people, right?

If you know you’d like to speak with a specific person, look for common links in your network.

If you find one, message that person and reference that link or name. It’s looser than a direct introduction, but the reality is most people stink at giving introductions. So why not introduce yourself?

Schedule a meeting once a month with someone new

Deeper connections are created through extended conversations. By initiating these conversations consistently, you ultimately have enough reps that it becomes meaningful.

I put a monthly reminder to schedule a lunch or zoom call.

And don’t tell me once a month is too much. This is a safe number that is repeatable, but also not too big of a burden.

Do some research and come prepared with a few questions either about them or in an area they could assist you. It takes the pressure off but also makes it more productive.

It’s important that you don’t ask for follow-up from them. If you do, any goodwill you’ve built from making them feel valuable you immediately destroy. That’s also why consistency is important. If you’ve gone to lunch with someone 2-3 times and stayed in contact, when a true need arises they’ll eagerly help.

Reach out to your current network once or twice a year

One thing I will admit to having failed at is staying in contact with the connections I made. Until last year, I’d set up these lunches and then never talk to them again.

The reality is, very few people “stay in touch” and if you do, even only once or twice a year, you’ll quickly build a robust network.

Birthdays and anniversaries are prime opportunities to reach out and reconnect. A simple text message is often enough to keep the connection going. I’ve often gotten responses of “Thank you! Would love to get coffee soon.”

I typically give it a week or two (schedule yourself a reminder) and then reach back out about meeting up.

Recently I’ve implemented a personal CRM to help me with this follow-up, too. If you’re interested in hearing more about this, just reply to this email and I can send you the template.

Be a connector

I’ve hinted at it throughout, but the reality is people care more about themselves than anyone else.

The same is true for you, too.

No one is thinking about you in their day-to-day life. They’re thinking about surviving themselves.

As you talk to people, listen for problems they have, and be intentional about connecting them with people who can solve them.

Think of commonalities:

  • interests

  • industries

  • experience

When you can make connections for others, they’ll remember you as a connector and come back to you the next time they have a problem.

I’ve not been great at this in the past, but I’ve made it a goal to think about this in any networking conversation.

Join a group and bring a friend

For years I had organizations I wanted to join, but the intimidation of going to the first meeting always stopped me from taking the first step.

One time, after years of putting off going to a specific organization, I showed up and saw a close friend. You often have connections at the organizations you’re interested in, but you won’t know if you never go.

A great way to help you overcome this fear is to ask a friend to go with you to the first meeting. They don’t even have to be from the industry. Make a deal and tell them you’ll go to a meeting for them as well.

This is typically enough motivation to get over the hurdle of the first meeting. You create accountability, but also comfort.

Make it about them

When you allow someone to talk about themselves, they'll start viewing you more favorably.

Ask questions and follow-ups to keep them going. The follow-ups show you’re listening and interested.

When you find a common interest, draw the connection and dig into the topic.

It’s amazing how simple but useful this is. When you allow them to talk, it takes the pressure off to keep the conversation going, but also allows you to learn more deeply than most will know.

When you remember these nuggets down the line, it continues to reinforce the deepness of the connection you have.

Prepare questions to prompt conversation

Some may say this is inorganic or unnatural, but I say it’s genius.

First, come up with a list of common questions you’d like to ask. Keep this list handy to look over before any networking activity.

Also, reflect on what you know about the person. Think of a few things you’d like to know.

Pick a few out from each list and you’ll become known as a good conversationalist.

People don’t care about how you got there, they care what’s in it for them.

When conversation flows, it’s viewed as productive and creates synergy between you.

But there is also another side effect: when you ask the same questions to different people, it also helps you find similarities within your network. This goes back to being a connector. Seek out those similarities and dig in.

Know how to tell your story

Storytelling is an essential part of life. If you tell yourself you’re a bad storyteller, you probably will be.

I’ve never been a good storyteller, but you can become one through practice.

The same things are always talked about:

  • career

  • family

  • future plans

  • hobbies

Think of 1-2 stories in each area and practice how you’ll tell them. Write them down then speak them out loud.

This creates a foundation from which you can work. You likely won’t repeat it verbatim out in public, but it creates an arch that you can follow. You can then craft the details you include based on the context you’re in.

Then, end the story by asking "Do you have any similar stories?" This allows them to jump in and makes a clear transition to let them know you’ve ended and are done sharing.

When you don’t do this, you run the risk of bearing the burden to continue carrying the conversation, which can be the worst nightmare of many introverts.

Bonus: go to the bathroom

You may be thinking “what did you just say?!?” No, I’m not joking.

When at lunch, meeting, or event, going to a bathroom is a great way to get a break.

As introverts, you need time away to recharge. I often feel my energy waning partway through.

The worst thing you can do is pull back or leave. If you do, it’s better than not going, but it’s through the discomfort that you grow the most.

So, if you just have to get away, go to the bathroom and sit in a stall. Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths. It’s amazing how just a few minutes away can recharge you and bring you back to where you can give them your full attention.


Networking doesn't have to be hard and isn't a bad word.

Focus on bringing value and building true relationships.

Then when you actually need something you've built an army that will work for you.

To truly create a new habit, you have to adopt an identity as a person who does that specific thing. If you change your outcomes or processes, but don't change your identity, change will be temporary.

In this episode, we talk about 4 ways to attack your limiting beliefs and make a new identity stick.


What mental hurdles do you struggle with the most in networking?

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