Expanding Your Network as an Introvert (or how to meet people by avoiding small chat)

2013, the year that all special birthdays and wedding dates are finally over because 13.13.13 is not a real date! Anyway, hope it’s an awesome one for you and that you are inspired to keep some excellent resolutions.
Alain de Botton’s tweet captures new year resolutions perfectly to me:

Resolutions: we’re all so much more bearable once it’s known we ARE trying to improve.
— Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) December 31, 2012

So although they’re a constant disappointment to ourselves, they really are a major factor in our likability, which is actually an important thing (“I am what I am” ain’t all that). And who hasn’t breathed a sigh of relief over a loved one announcing a resolution regarding a flaw we weren’t quite sure they saw in themselves?
Repatriation is probably in the 2013 cards for me, and that means a big start over for my partner and I, especially in building our network all over again. And what can I say? I got this. I was asking interesting people out for career-chat-coffees since I was 18, networking is my thang and I love to let my freakishly-loves-getting-to-know-strangers-flag-fly. But my partner? He probably wouldn’t do networking even if he was paid to. This is because he’s an ISTP, or in other words, someone who prefers action to talking, is super skilled and hands on, and has no time for bullshit. Yet, he’s grown a network that overshadows mine in Singapore.
There are so many articles on the internet about how to network as an introvert, but they mostly focus on professional situations. He would never place himself into those situations, so how did he expand his network into so many quality contacts who have since become close friends to both of us?
These are my observations, and network expansion tips for an introvert, but especially those of the ISTP orientation.
Join a big and popular club of an activity you’re really good at. Come on now – ISTPs are usually athletes, or else, very skilled at something. You are artisans. You will meet people who are just as skilled at an activity as you are, and maybe their conversation will interest you. Oh yes, I have witnessed a group of big gruff rugby men making small chat about the previous game’s play for hours. Small chat in general may not interest you, but chat about your rockstar area will. Be a mensch while you kick ass with your skill, and you will be highly valued and respected in your club. In no time at all, you will be known by, and engaging with, a large network quite easily.
Ask people to champion you. Nails down a blackboard probably sound more enticing to you than talking about yourself (OMG I don’t get you, I have a blog just so I can write about myself after I’ve finished talking about myself because it is just so much Fun, but I digress). Let a friend know you are seeking an opportunity somewhere, and if they could put in a good word for you it would be much appreciated. Let them know that you find talking about yourself so difficult that it would be awesome if your friend could help sell you to their contact before you meet them yourself. I bet your friend would be totally honoured you approached them, and would bend over backwards to sell you and your skill set to anyone they know.
Arm yourself with an extrovert. If you’ve got a friend or partner who you are very close with and whom is extroverted, they are your tool to conquering social gatherings. Follow them to events, let them do the talking to the multitudes of randoms while you scan the room for someone who you actually want to talk one-on-one with. They will be your extrovert beard, saving you from the empathetic extroverts out to save the lonely left outs of the room (who are actually introverts just chilling out from the social interactions). They will be your springboard, making the small chat with someone you do want to talk to, making your introduction and then championing on your behalf to get the other party interested, before you dive in to enjoy an actual conversation. And after they’ve done all that tell them you love them, because they will be just as exhausted as you after the event. You, the introvert, will be drained after the social interaction, and they, the extrovert, will be drained after exerting the social presence of two people at once and engineering interaction bait you will actually bite. But for both of you, it will be a successful social event.
Get a Facebook profile and friend everyone you’ve ever met. You’ve got nothing to worry about privacy wise, because it takes you so long to reveal intimate details about yourself with people you’ve known for years in real life. So add everyone you’ve ever met and get an online network that’s as big as possible. You probably won’t be that interested in posting lots of status updates and interactions, so why not just post pictures of the action you’ve been up to, or links to cool shit you’ve found. Your friends will do the rest of the interaction for you with their liking and commenting. Presto! A global network of people who are interested in what you’re up to, and how they could help at the next step. Gold.
Make allies with colleagues and managers that get you. You will detest anyone who plays politics that negatively affects you getting your job done and about half your other colleagues and managers will agree with you. They will get you, appreciate your motivation to just get the job done, and will enjoy having someone else at work who is just an interesting person that doesn’t transform their personality into a butt-hoover during work hours. Bring in food to share with them, go out for drinks after knock off, share funny work related things on your facebook profiles, and just be the dude everyone can hang out with when they can’t deal with the bullshit for a second more. That doesn’t mean becoming an angry advocate on behalf of your colleagues (which you would very rarely do anyway), it just means be the same chill person you usually are and extend the chill-out-vibes to your colleagues. You will quickly become well loved, fiercely protected and highly valued in your work area, and maybe score a few friends too.
What do you think? Got some ideas to add?
Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

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  • 2 January 2013