Hello. My name is Mahlena, and I am an introvert with social anxiety.
I worry about embarrassing myself at networking events, including those gatherings that happen online. I overanalyze past interactions I have had with strangers and wonder what I could have done differently. When I get excited about a topic I am explaining, I have trouble making eye contact with the other person because I get so caught up in the story.
And that’s okay.
I keep networking anyway, both online and offline, because the benefits outweigh the risks.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by situations with big groups of people. It’s okay to renew your energy by sitting alone in a quiet place that makes you feel safe and secure. It’s also okay to want to meet new people and find new friends and colleagues whom you can connect with.
You can develop new relationships and build your network in the ways that make sense for you.
So, if you are also an introvert with social anxiety, then fear not. You are in the right place. Here are the three best ways to network from home and connect with your people.
1. Find people who share your personal interests.
There are numerous methods you can employ to research and identify potential new friends you have something in common with. Social media can make your targeted search easier. For example, Facebook hosts millions of groups with a variety of topics. Some Facebook groups are public, some are closed, and some are secret. Joining a Facebook group based on a topic that you are interested in, like baking cookies or bird watching or writing sci-fi novels, will introduce you to new people across the world and provide opportunities to connect through comments and direct messages.
In addition to Facebook, websites like Meetup and apps like Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF are designed to generate connections among users who like the same hobbies and activities. When you find existing groups and systems already filled with people who want to connect based on your shared interests, it can lower your anxiety level and open you up to making new friends.
2. Find interesting people in your industry.
If you like the field you are in, then building relationships with people in that field can be fun. However, if you plan to change industries in the near future, then it would be better to reach out to people in the new career area that piques your interest. Again, social media can remove some of the uncertainty by using the search features to find the specific types of individuals you would like to engage with. Start with LinkedIn, the platform where professionals want to connect with other professionals about business and careers. Comment on existing posts about your industry, and create posts of your own to generate discussion and attract like minded users.
Other places to find colleagues in your field of interest are Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Though these platforms are known for their entertainment value, they are also filled with business owners and industry thought leaders with thousands upon millions of followers, engaged in discussions that you can join at your leisure. These conversations can turn into the building blocks for relationships that will aid in developing your career. Or, you can make a new friend who coincidentally likes finance or agriculture or education or whatever economic sector you want to work in.
3. Reconnect with people you already know.
Many of your friends, family members, and coworkers are already your people. They know you, and they like you.
But if they already know you, then why should you reconnect with them? Two reasons.
One: They also know other people who will probably like you. Therefore, they can connect you to those new people and minimize your anxiety.
Two: You probably are not the same person that you were when you initially met them. Therefore, you need to tell them who you are and what you want now, currently, so that you can meet each other’s needs more effectively.
How do you reconnect with the people you already know? Text your old college friend for a phone call. Email your aunt for a Zoom call. Send a direct message to your close connections on your social media profiles. Let your people know you are ready to mingle in a low pressure way with new people who share something in common with you.
It’s okay to be an introvert with social anxiety. Social media offers effective avenues to make new connections. Find people who share your personal interests. Find interesting people in your personal industry. Additionally, reconnect with people you already know.
Finally, here’s the most important thing to remember about all of the above-mentioned methods: even though they all require some degree of effort to put yourself out there emotionally, YOU DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR HOME. You can log into Facebook, comment on LinkedIn, or text your cousins all from the comfort of a fleece blanket cocoon on your couch. (I have personally done all of these things.) You can find your people without going outside.
You can do this.