For many Introverts, networking is a dirty word. It evokes visions of organized networking events; introducing oneself to stranger after stranger; public speaking; and any number of unnatural, nightmarish tasks that would almost make visiting the dentist seem like a pleasure trip.
Though INFP personalities may value relationships more than some other Introverts, we definitely prefer one or two people at a time, with the focus on real relationships. Traditional networking can feel like just another impersonal, over-crowded activity that’s way out of our comfort zone as well as irrelevant to what we most value.
But we’re told we have to do it. That in itself is enough to arouse dread in an INFP’s independent-thinking being, but even we realize that we do need to meet some people in order to meet our career or business goals.
So, the trick is to find ways to not just force ourselves through the required hoops, but to make networking as personal, meaningful, and painless as possible.
Here are a few approaches you might want to consider if you're an INFP and want to see how you can not just get through networking when you must, but actually become a master at it, and enjoy the experience.
Be like Sinatra – do it your way
INFPs aren’t that impressed with doing something without a reason they can personally value and relate to. “Because I said so'' is not the best parenting approach for an INFP child, and it's the same when they’re grown up.
You’ve probably been told that to make your career or business work, you have to network. And as an Introvert, you’ve probably been told to just suck it up and network like an Extravert, because that’s how it’s done.
But if you feel forced to do something you dread, you’re just going to keep putting it off, and when you do push yourself into doing what’s expected, you’re not likely to be that successful at it.
Working against our personality type just isn’t a dependable formula for success. But working with it can work wonders.
One thing INFPs are great at is figuring out what does and doesn’t work for us, and we know that not only is forcing ourselves to act like Extraverts not likely to work for us, but it’s also not the only – or even the best – way to effectively network.
Don’t do anything you hate
While there may be things about running a business or keeping a job that you don’t love but have to do anyway, you don’t have to do every kind of networking, especially the kinds you know are wrong for you.
If you dislike formal networking events, or any in-person events at all, don’t do them. You can do much of your networking in the digital world. Whether that’s LinkedIn connections, small professional groups targeted to your interests, or posting on your blog or newsletter, there are a lot of ways to connect without forcing yourself into a room full of random strangers you really don’t even want to meet.
If you force yourself to do something you hate, you'll do it less often, and less well. So find something you don't hate, and may even enjoy, and you'll likely have better results, while you're also having more fun.
Let your passion fuel you
INFPs aren’t any more impressed with meaningless tasks than they are with random rules, or with the way everyone else supposedly does things.
Though you might need to network for professional reasons, whether you’re an employee, a freelancer, or a business owner, you should make whatever networking you do serve a greater purpose.
If you lead an INFP into a quiet corner and get them talking about a subject they care deeply about, you may even forget they’re an Introvert. Passion makes us spill over with enthusiasm, and we’ll likely talk long and deeply about what we care about.
So if we take that passion with us in our networking activities, whether online or in person, formal or informal, we’ll likely forget that we hate networking and just remember that we’re talking – or writing – about what we love.
Be clear about your objectives
Rather than just getting in any kind of networking because you think you should, think about what you specifically want to accomplish.
You might want to build contacts in a specific industry or job role, maintain and deepen a few targeted relationships or share your knowledge with people who will value it.
Rather than focusing on numbers, or activities you think you’re supposed to do, focus on what you want to accomplish and then brainstorm how you’re most likely to get there.
If what you’re doing makes sense within your bigger picture, you’ll likely resent it less and feel that the time and energy you spend is a worthwhile investment with a purpose that makes sense.
I can barely stand fluorescent lights, but I love to take an afternoon walk in the sunlight. Plastic flowers make me cringe. Real ones make me smile. I hate feeling forced to talk to a large group of people, but I love talking to a couple of valued friends or colleagues about something that interests me, or that I know will help them.
In short, if it’s natural, and a good fit for your needs and personality, it tends to be more enjoyable and effective. Find ways of “networking” that fit naturally into your life.
So make good use of the relationships you have, the chance meetings, the forums on topics that light you up. Rather than forcing yourself to do activities you find uncomfortable and meaningless in the name of networking, do what feels right to you, what fits the situation, and what makes sense for your needs, goals, and personality.
As long as it’s their choice, INFPs like to give and help others.
Like what we’ve all learned in marketing 101, if you can think about some individual people in your network and offer them a bit of advice, an article that might interest them, even a supportive comment on their posts, and keep doing this over time, they’ll likely remember you at the right time.
You’ll also build a reputation. The other side of the networking coin is that what you’re known for is at least as important as who you know.
If, instead of focusing on a desperate desire for quick results from your networking efforts, you focus on what you can offer, the results will follow, and you'll be more willing to reach out. And when you think of your networking endeavors as ways of helping your friends (or colleagues), you'll likely find them more satisfying.
As introverted idealists, INFPs can hate the very thought of traditional networking. But we do care about cultivating deep relationships, finding unconventional solutions, and giving something of value to others, as well as fully living our dreams.
If we lean into activities that further these values, we can master networking in its very best sense, so we can help others, meet our business and career goals, and shine as unique individuals in a world that needs to hear our unconventional voices. It's the type of win-win situation INFPs love.