Introverts and Networking

I'm somewhat of an introvert. I didn't know that for a very long time. It surprises most people I know when I say that because they find me to be engaging and social. But, introverts are not necessarily anti-social. Rather, introverts are energized by solitude and drained by crowds. Extroverts are the opposite. I'm at my best in small groups—anything above six to ten or so brings out the introvert in me. This is less true in social settings; more so in professional ones.

Last week I was at a conference—the type of environment my introverted self really likes to come out. It was an excellent conference and the people I met are amazing. But, big conferences can wear me down, and the productivity guilt and self-doubt associated with not wanting to be a power networker starts to creep in.

I'm not a power networker and I'm ready to own that. I am committed to doing more of it, but I can only push that so far. I also know there is another path.

Thankfully, I remembered an excellent blog post by my friend Brad Feld, which put me at ease. In "Effective Networking", Brad writes about the work of Adam Grant—the Wharton professor and author of Give and Take (which happens to be next up on my bookshelf).

Brad writes:

Adam Grant has a superb essay in the New York Times this weekend titled Networking is Overrated.... Early in the essay, he has a strong lead in.

“It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network.”

He finishes the essay with a great punch line.

“If you make great connections, they might advance your career. If you do great work, those connections will be easier to make. Let your insights and your outputs — not your business cards — do the talking.”

He continues:

In Adam’s sequel to his NYT article titled To Build a Great Network, You Don’t Have to be a Great Networker (enjoyably / ironically on LinkedIn), he says:

“It’s possible to develop a network by becoming the kind of person who never eats alone, who wins friends and influences people. But introverts rejoice: there’s another way. You can become the kind of person who invests time in doing excellent work and sharing your knowledge with others.”

I found these to be excellent reminders to do what has always felt most right to me: do good work, treat others well, and everything else will take care of itself. This is good advice for everyone—introverts and extroverts alike.