Any career expert will tell you that networking is the key to achieving professional success. There’s a potential catch in that strategy, though: what if you’re an introvert? What if you just aren’t very good at making friends at work? This personality trait makes it difficult to do the relationship-building necessary to develop a truly significant network. Does that mean you’re doomed to an underperforming career?
No, not exactly. However, you might need to take steps to overcome the limitation. Like any skill, you can work at getting better at the basic task of making professional connections. You can overcome your shyness to build a viable, career-expanding network.
It should be said here that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Not feeling comfortable with new people or not liking the small talk or back-slapping necessary to develop some shallow professional relationships doesn’t mean you need to change. It just means you need to find tactics that work for you.
Here are a few tips on making friends at work when you are an introvert:
Be Open and Friendly
As an introvert, you might feel uncomfortable approaching other people. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it easy for them to approach you. Small gestures, like a bowl of candy on your desk or a few personal items in your work station, can be enough to spark a conversation.
Focus on One-on-One Connections
Crowds can be intimidating, especially for an introvert. When you don’t have a social instinct, trying to stand out in a group setting can send your stomach into flutters. However, you can counteract this by focusing on one-on-one interactions. These connections often come with less stress and have the added benefit of leading to deeper relationships.
Find Common Ground
The hardest thing about talking to strangers is thinking of something to talk about. Running into an uncomfortable silence represents one of the biggest social fear for most people. Avoid this by finding common ground with the people around you. Movies. TV. Sports teams. Look for anything that represents a topic for repeated conversation.
Hunt for Outgoing People
Find people who will do most of the conversational work for you. Every office has the gadflies and back-slippers (just head down to the sales department if you’re not sure where to look). These extroverts will ease the tension and keep the discussion moving forward. You’ll just have to nod pleasantly and answer direct questions until you feel more comfortable.
Attend Company Events
If you want to make friends, start by showing up to social functions. accept invites to barbecues and happy hours. Also, attend any company-sponsored get-togethers, like holiday parties. Even if the events make you nervous, just put in an appearance. Eventually, you’ll start to feel more comfortable.
Find Work-Related Reasons to interact
Nothing builds connections like a team project. It’s like soldiers bonding in basic training. As such, find excuses to discuss work with the people on your team. Ask questions. Offer to help. It will help you break the ice.
Build Relationships Through Email and Messenger
Sometimes face-to-face discussions are too intimidating. In that case, lay the groundwork with a virtual approach. When you are first getting to know your coworkers, focus on conversations over email, messenger, or text. This way, when it’s time to meet in person, you’ve already reached a level of familiarity.
Building friendships at work can make the daily grind go by much more pleasantly. It also opens the door to future opportunities. Another way to push your career forward is working with a staffing agency. A good recruiting partner, like SmartTalent, will put you in positions that perfectly fit your skills and background.
Contact SmartTalent today to learn more.