Using Virtual Networking Groups as a Social Strategy for Introverts

Using Virtual Networking Groups as a Social Strategy for Introverts

Are you working from home right now, or is your office or workplace just business as usual with everyone in their normal place? Because so many working adults are in some way affected by the pandemic, are you feeling more connected to people than before the coronavirus came to your neck of the woods or less so?

What I know for sure is that statistics and polls pretty much say that few if any of the lives of professionals are remotely similar to what they were pre-pandemic.

Chances are that if you are working remotely, even that has lost some of its luster.

At first, it was like a dream. You didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn just to beat traffic or catch the train. And you felt like you could get more done from home because there were far fewer distractions.

The perks and benefits of working from home definitely outweighed the aggravation of needing to always be in the immediate vicinity of annoying co-workers or employees.   

But, months on, and now that your children are more accustomed to attending classes from home or in pods, or they’ve gone back to the classroom and as you too have settled into a somewhat isolated, but still productive routine.

Now that your time is a little more organized you realize you’re missing the face-to-face colleague interaction, plus, you haven’t actually met a new person in what feels like ages.

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As much as social isolation can give you the feeling that you finally have some breathing space, it’s actually not the best thing for your career.

The reason why is pretty simple — we tend to forget about those things and people we don’t see or interact with on a regular basis.

We also don’t react to words themselves, but rather the emotions words evoke, and when you work from home it can be impossible to replicate the conversations you would have face-to-face. So it’s in your best interest to make a real effort to do something about that.

I get it if you’re an introvert like me, and sometimes you just don’t feel you need the social stimuli, and I’m here to say that you do. If you don’t feel comfortable making small talk, this is your time to learn. If meeting new people makes you nervous, well, this is a great time to start getting over it!

Remember, there is no rule that you must meet every person, although it is proven that we hold people who seemingly greet everyone and have the “gift” of recalling a person’s name when they only met once. 

We admire their skill and hold them in high regard.

And that’s not you! But still, you do need a game plan for meeting the people with whom you are best able to have a mutually beneficial professional relationship, and the best place to start is by making an effort to connect with your current colleagues.

You likely have co-workers who are in the same situation as you, working from home. And while it’s become the norm to connect on virtual conferencing and chat tools, like Slack and Zoom, why not raise the ante and make an effort to try to meet up with them in person, maybe bi-weekly for a socially distant lunch.

The point here is that emotion I mentioned a minute ago, and how it comes through in face-to-face interactions.

Emotion and feelings are how we connect with people and how we become more likable.

Another option that I’m a big fan of is virtual luncheons. I start by doing my best to limiting my Linkedin connections to people I Know, Like, and Trust. I think you can never have too much of the KLT factor. 

As a coach and corporate trainer, I have a lot of people in my network who I may not have had a 1:1 conversation with, but I still know how we’re connected.

To me, LinkedIn is not a numbers game. Too many times in the past I’ve contacted a direct connection to ask for a reference on another person they’re connected to, only to find out the person who I hoped to provide me with the insight doesn’t actually know the person.

You will be much better served by exhausting your contacts from previous jobs and conferences and people whom you’ve actually met to build your connections, versus hundreds of friends of friends.

There are plenty of people who will be happy to reconnect with you and who will potentially have more first-level contacts who actually have things in common with you.

Now, what I do is scroll through my connections and invite people whose business interests me at that particular time to a virtual 30-minute lunch. And here’s the thing, it’s all about them. They will get to know me better, but I want to know who they are and how I may be able to help them get what they want.

That may sound very familiar to anyone who’s a fan of the great sales trainer, Zig Ziglar who said:

"You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want."

Also along those same lines and while I’m in a quoting mood, we have Dale Carnegie who suggested that we make an effort to be genuinely interested in other people.

Don’t be afraid to make the effort every now and then to connect with people. Even the shortest conversations or in-person or virtual coffees can go a long way toward enhancing a relationship.

No one will be upset that you reached out, they may decline the virtual or in-person invite, but afterward, they’ll be much more likely to question themselves on what caused them to decline your gracious invite – so don’t worry, because it’s not a reflection on your kindness or character.

I keep track of all of the invitations I send out, and if a person does not reply – ever, which is more likely to happen with connections through Linkedin than from any other source, I use that as a reason to weed out my connections and delete that person.

The meetings that I do schedule are so great and upbeat, we’re always happy we made the time. I highly suggest this connection strategy for you.

One thing is for sure, and that is if you’re going to increase your social circle and network, you have to put yourself out there. You don’t want to risk being overlooked or forgotten for anything that you should have been in on or privy to, just because you like quiet time.

Just set a date and a time and get started reaching out to current co-workers and customers, or new acquaintances.

That’s because so much of what you do throughout the course of the day is just a habit. Getting started and in a routine, and seeing the benefits of how your efforts positively affect a person’s day may be the biggest energizer for you and the reason you stick with it.

When you make an effort to be social — let’s say that’s just saying “Good Morning” during your daily walk or jog, it quickly becomes something you just have to do, or you feel out of sorts.

Every morning I go for a long sunrise run or walk on the beach near my home, and greeting regulars and some newbies is a regular part of my daily routine.

I didn’t realize how important that social aspect was until this past weekend when I decided to mix things up a little and travel to a different beach about 30-minutes away. I’m honestly not sure if my walk was more silent than usual because I was unfamiliar to the morning joggers and walkers on that beach, or if I just had to make a greater effort because I was the “new” person.

Once I recognized I was working with a different dynamic than usual, I made a conscious effort to pump up my personality behind the mask that was hiding the smile, and that little effort changed my day and my impression of the town and the people I was visiting.

When is the last time you extended an invitation to a person who you would possibly benefit from knowing better than you currently do?

Do you think meeting more people will improve your chances of landing a promotion, maybe a new job, or making a big sale?

If it wasn’t in the past week or two don’t put it off any longer. Make sure you’re building activities into the business day with some regularity, so it gives you the chance to actually form relationships.

Another great way to meet people with common interests is through online, business-related interests.  

Join a group or start a group, or do both if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for.

It’s similar to going to a networking event and waiting for other people to start a conversation with you. Stop doing that and be the one with something to offer, rather than looking to see what other people have that you can benefit from.

Meetups are another brilliant source to join or create a niche group. I have met and done business with some great people I would not have had the pleasure to meet were it not for Meetups.

There are Meetups for pretty much every topic, and once again, you can start your own.This is such a great option for you to take the lead and put yourself out there socially.

It doesn’t matter that many groups are meeting virtually because of COVID. All you need to do is be consistent and show-up for people. It will pay off. It always does.

Whether the group is directly related to your job or business, or if it’s a hobby or a side hustle, you’re in the driver’s seat when you decide to take the initiative.

If you’ve decided to create your own group, set a goal number of participants, let’s say 25 or 50 or more, and once you reach that number of actively engaged members you’ll host a virtual event with a real program and guest speakers.

When you’re pouring your heart and soul into your new baby and thinking of ways to add value to upcoming meetings, naturally, your online star will rise, accordingly.

The other great thing for introverts is the level of control you assume when you’re being the lead vs. being led by someone else. You get to set and plan for everything, including the hours and the end time. All that to say Linkedin groups and Meetups are great options for you to be social.

Now you shouldn’t forget that everything must be in balance — what I mean is give a little and take a little, and I personally believe you should give more than you take.

The school you attended has had some part in your success, correct?

Your alma mater or the friends you stay in touch with are a part of who you are. I graduated from college – well, not recently -- and one speaking engagement that came about from someone who worked for the alumni association seeing a newspaper article featuring my company blossomed into more than six years of involvement on boards, and numerous opportunities to conduct in-person and online workshops and alumni both benefiting from my words of wisdom and inviting me to run workshops at their companies which would then produce clients who would hire me to coach them.

How can you give back to your college or even high school? What sage advice can you impart to people who are currently sitting in the same seat you were once in? Don’t discount the value your perspective and experience will give to students. Your words may carry more weight than faculty or an administrator.  

In addition to returning to campus as a guest lecturer or a board member, getting to know university officials and department heads, particularly if the work you’re currently doing relates to your major at that time can be a positive for your present work.

These individuals are ideal to add to your network, as the common interests you share makes it easier to quickly have a level of comfort and easy conversations. And the same can be said for meeting alumni.

All told, returning to campus, either face-to-face or online will be a good move for your professional and maybe even your personal life.

Earlier I mentioned the importance of KLT, or the Know, Like, Trust factor when connecting to people online.

A lot of people really are clueless about how to manage their professional networking or social lives. And what they do is accept every connection invitation they receive and end up with a mish-mash of contacts who can do absolutely nothing for them.

The opportunities to develop and polish the social skills you really need to succeed are all around you. You just need to lift your head up and look.

You’ll never find what you’re not looking for, so be intentional about meeting people, telling them what you do, and finding ways you can help them.

A search will yield an abundance of local and regional events geared toward high-quality, like-minded professionals and business owners.

Join a few and see how they run their meetings and how you can benefit. Keep in mind that the group you joined was started by a person just like you who had a vision for the group they wanted to be a part of, so no group bashing allowed. Just start your own, listen to your members, and watch it grow.

The bottom line is your career can be harmed if you don’t actively find opportunities to share your expertise with those who stand to benefit the most. Plus, they’re ways to distract you from the normal course of business and to get out of the house and do something fun.

Consider this, employers and hiring managers quickly bypass your resume or CV for your online content. When all things and qualifications are equal, would you be more likely to invite for an interview a candidate who’s sharing their expertise as an online community leader or in a series of YouTube videos, or the candidate who partakes in few activities outside the normal parameters of their job?

It’s easier than you think. Just set your focus on people who like similar things because they’ll naturally be more receptive as well as being easier to get to know.

Regardless of whether you feel comfortable and chatty with new people or if you prefer to stay to yourself, you were meant to be social, and you can do it well and on your own terms.  

Avoiding small talk? Social Skills Secrets will help!


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