As I slumped in my chair, exhausted after another evening of ‘working the room’, I was pondering whether I am an extrovert or an introvert – and whether this had any relationship to my ability to be a good networker. Particularly as most accountants (but not all it has to be said) are introverts – does this mean that accountants are lousy networkers?
The thing is (and this annoys me) there is an industry pandering to the perception that introverts are shy, unconnected and get overwhelmed by meeting lots of people – and so need help to network. The industry also has the solution – lots of books, articles and products to help introverts feel happier about networking and ‘working the room’.
I have a number of problems with this perception. Firstly whether you are an introvert or an extrovert has NO bearing on whether you make a great networker. Yes, no bearing. Whether your natural preference – as defined by Jung - is for introversion or extroversion, this has no correlation with your ability to build and maintain relationships. While an introvert has a preference for a small circle of very close and deep friends, and extrovert has a preference for a larger circle of friends but less deep friendships. If the key to being a great networker is to have strong relationships with the people who can help your business or career, then I want to both an extrovert and an introvert.
Jung’s definition of extroversion is where people are energised by the company of other people. Introversion is the opposite – where people are energised by their own company. Jung did not say that introverts or extroverts have more or less social confidence, or that either is any better at growing mutually beneficial relationships. So why do people assume that extroverts will happily work a room and introverts hate working a room?
The other reason I get annoyed by this perception that introverts need help to work the room, is the assumption that to network you need to work the room. Not so. I am considered by many people to be a true connector (as defined by Gladwell in ‘the tipping point’) and someone with an amazing little black book of contacts. 100% of my new business comes to me from existing clients and my network, particularly a few key relationships. However, I very rarely work the room – and when I do, I find it very exhausting. I normally need an hour or so to myself to recharge after a few hours of ‘working the room’ with many people I don’t know. I now tend to use online tools and personal recommendations to find the right people for my business, rather than the random nature of working the room at a conference or mix and mingle type event. When I have identified a key relationship, I will then progress the relationship via 1-2-1 meetings.
What do you think, are extroverts better networkers than introverts?