Help! I’m an introvert and loathe networking

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Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, networking as an introvert, support after sexual harassment in the workplace, and concerns for a colleague’s wellbeing.

Illustration by Dionne Gain.

Illustration by Dionne Gain.Credit:

“As an introvert, I am struggling with all forms of networking be it in person or online. Whilst managers and co-workers value my work, networking is an area I always fall short. How do I overcome this in order to make meaningful connections?”

It is fair to say the majority of people, introvert or extrovert, would groan at the thought of being told to go and “network” whether that is walking into a room of strangers or having to build networks online. The idea of developing a connection from nothing is daunting and more than a little off-putting for most.

I have overcome my dislike of “networking” by reframing what it means to me. I like to think about the people I connect with as being built on a genuine relationship where we listen to one another, try and help each other with any problems and make further introductions where appropriate. It is all about quality over quantity, and authenticity, rather than collecting names and business cards.

Think of networking as a way to develop a small number of high-quality relationships. You may also discover that as an introvert, you have skills that can be used to your advantage; you may never become the person at your workplace with the most connections but rather the person with the deepest.

Active listening, for example, is often something introverts are much better at than extroverts.

“I’ve experienced two sustained episodes of sexual harassment in two separate organisations by educated men in positions of power and authority. I ended up leaving my profession for five years due to the profound impact the events had on me. At one point I had a Human Resources director suggest that I was the problem and so should go for less high-pressure roles. What can HR professionals do to better support women brave enough to come forward?”

Thank you for sharing your story and choosing to bravely speak up about what happened to you. We know that women are sexually harassed far too frequently in Australia and it happens irrespective of whether women work in a high-pressure role or not. For someone to suggest that you could have contributed to your own sexual harassment is, quite frankly, shameful.

Fortunately, I believe there are many HR professionals who are sensitive to the complex issues that arise around sexual harassment and would have handled your situation more appropriately.