Scientists Simplifying Science

Tackling the networking monster for introverts

in Sci-Pourri by
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796 – 1875 ), The Artist’s Studio, c. 1868, oil on wood, Widener Collection. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

“Gloriously alone with her own thoughts for company, she was but walking in the painted landscape–wishing that she may remain locked there for all ages to come…”

 

I stared at the far hillocks wondering what time it was. Languid evening chatter created a fairly noisy din around me. The only other familiar face was meditatively sipping her aperitif, an Aperol Spirtz, glistening like the setting sun. The experience was surreal, sitting among strangers in a sleepy Italian town far away from home, isolated amidst the banter.

It has been two years since the 2-month work visit to Italy and that uneventful afternoon. Needless to say, the ‘Friday evening drinks’ networking meeting did not go that well. As an exchange student, I remained an outsider to the conversation spree and fled the scene as soon as propriety allowed. My prowess at battling the monster of ‘networking’ has only but barely improved. I have never made an attempt to intentionally befriend a resourceful person, even as the conventional ‘ networking tips’ guidelines admonished and berated my introverted self.

Recent times, however, have seen a change of heart. Don’t get me wrong, I am still not effective at networking. However, there has been an important realisation.  Networking need not be a slimy word reserved for relentlessly pursuing connections for material benefit, neither does it have to involve a charade of niceties directed towards some assumed gain. Yes, there will always the aggressive ones, who revel in the glory of the pursuit of beneficial associations. But that does not have to be the only form of networking. At the heart of it, it stresses on building relationships. One does not have to chase every rich, famous, and accomplished person ‘just in case’. One need not even attend those (typically) disastrous networking events wherein strangers meet, greet and leave after a bout of cheerful small talk.

For those who are disillusioned or distressed with the new craze in networking, well, it isn’t new. Throughout the ages, we have trusted people we know more than outright strangers. We have always given weights to human connections. Today, ‘networking’ is promoted as a marketing strategy, but it can be a rather gratifying experience if we focus on its essence and not just as a professional aid.

Get to know a famous scientist or entrepreneur exactly for that: to learn about his experiences and enjoy the conversation as it is, without wondering about how to glean benefit for your career. Who knows?—A positive first chat may forge a lifelong friendship, initiate a support system, bring forth great advice, all adding positivity to your situation. Of late, I have started reaching out to people gingerly, and have been surprised at the warmth I have received. For introverts, a sense of a distinct purpose, rather than an ‘I should be friends with as many influential people as I can’ attitude also helps, in my opinion. At a recent event, I wanted to ask one of the speakers about a possible freelancing opportunity. The swarm of gung-ho admirers did not give away and I just could not break-in; besides the prospect itself was mortifying for me. Finally I did get an apprehensive sentence across as she was going to her car, and we are ‘networked’ now! She was the only person in the illustrious panel I attempted to connect with, and thank heavens for that; the pressure of preparing something to say to the others which would be just the right ‘pitch’ might have been too much…

While offline networking is how it started, the phenomenon of online networking has been a godsend for networking-shy people like me. No eye-contact, no awkward facial expressions, and no uncomfortable silences! These, along with the protective barrier of a computer screen have transformed the networking monster into a friendly puppy (well, almost). I am much more comfortable email-ing or even chatting with people I would like to connect with. It is also easier to grow a thick skin for non-acknowledgment online than for a face-to-face disdainful snub. Online support forums are very useful to conquer the hesitation and unease involved in approaching people, especially for us introverts.

So here I am, a not-really-networked person preaching lofty about the right way to do it. There is no actual ‘right’ way but all of us do not have to buy into the business-strategist’s definition of networking. The introverts will fit in some part or the other of the networking pyramid. The emphasis should be on making it personality-allied. So let us all share the manifold benefits of networking. Some of us will have fewer nodes in our relationship-connectome, but who knows—perhaps the weights are greater!

Debaleena Basu

211120131373

 

 

I am currently pursuing Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Indian Institute of Science, after having explored Physiology and Genetics for my B.Sc. and M.Sc. respectively. I love participating in science communication and have recently stepped into the world of science writing. I intend to stick around for a while!

6 Comments

  1. Hi Debaleena. Very interesting. I am happy to have come across your article. Especially the ideas about offline networking. Just wanted to know more about what do you mean by ‘personality-allied’ networking? Thank you.

    • Thank you for your interest, Swati!

      I used the term ‘personality-allied’ to indicate that your networking strategy should be personalized, i.e. – instead of following a generic set of guidelines that might be uncomfortable for an introvert, it is better to evolve a good networking practice which one finds pleasant. If I may coarsely categorize people, there are the innate, aggressive networkers whose second nature is to connect with anyone ‘useful’ at every opportunity. Then there are those, who find it easy to connect once a certain link is in place but find it hard to initiate it with a stranger. Finally, many of us feel ‘networking’ to be more of a burdensome necessity and hate trying to initiate and maintain networking conversations with strangers, yet we try to do it as it is supposed to help professionally.

      My take, as I have mentioned in the article, is that we do not have to become ‘pretend natural networkers’ as that has a high chance of backfiring. It is okay to take it slow and try to network in a comfortable environment, using a familiar medium and we do not have to be on friendly terms with every established person we meet. No need to copy people who are way more comfortable connecting with people than ourselves; better to give oneself leeways and network according to one’s comfort level– that’s what I meant by personality-allied networking.

      Please feel free to message me if you have more questions.

  2. Hi Debaleena,
    Great post! The episode of trying to get past a gaggle of fawning admirers, while being thoroughly uncomfortable was so relatable. I would love to get your perspective of the infamous “pitch”-how does one get through the awkwardness of reciting prepared sentences to a stranger? Again, thanks for making life a little bit easier for introverts.

    Best Regards
    Anindita

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Latest from Sci-Pourri

Aarthi Existential

Aarthi Parthasarathy is a very well-known artist and film maker who finds

Cooking in my Life

The earliest childhood memory I have about cooking is from when my
Go to Top
%d bloggers like this: