“Excuse me…” I asked, knocking on the glass partition of the first class train carriage. “Are you Jimmy Osmond?”
I was on a train back from London late last night when I spotted the youngest of the Osmonds.
I’d like to say that I walked over to him confidently, introduced myself and began chatting easily about what brought him to London, his experience in the limelight and perhaps get a quote or two for my blog.
Unfortunately, it seems I am in the class of “introverted entrepreneurs”, when it comes to networking and creating opportunities out of chance encounters. I am confident, and fare slightly better in organised networking but do find it difficult to create those important links with people I have just met without it all feeling a little superficial.
Mr. Osmond was extremely polite, friendly and approachable, but I barely spoke and as I returned to my seat with autograph and photo, couldn’t help feeling that I had missed a vital opportunity.
I have friends who find it a breeze to make professional connections out of even the most unlikely meetings. Effortlessly they engage with others and make networking seem as simple as breathing. I am not one of those people and find myself plagued with thoughts such as:
- They probably want to be left alone
- Why would they be interested in me and my work?
- What if I say the wrong thing?
- What on earth do I even want to say and ask them?
It’s the last point that seems to immobilise me the most. For the remaining journey I thought about how it would be an excellent blog entry / article if I could somehow tap into Mr. Osmond’s life experiences and find something relevant but my mind was blank and all I kept hearing was the tune to “Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.”
I was further frustrated when I later discovered he is a serial entrepreneur with multiple successful business ventures from his prolific production company, the Osmonds’ merchandising business, and his advertising agency. Any one of these would have made a fascinating topic of conversation.
This has made me think how networking for creative entrepreneurs is probably one of the most important aspects of survival, second perhaps to the quality of their work. Increasing the publicity to what it is you do and finding similar minds to help publicise and perhaps even collaborate on your projects helps to market your personal brand and begin fruitful working relationships. (See Gary Vaynerchuk on extending the virtual handshake.)
I wonder how many people are hidden in our online and offline networks, who we know nothing about that could prove a mutually beneficial professional relationship if only we asked the right questions?
Some ideas I’ve had about improving this skill that I would like to apply more online and offline are:
- Ask people within my networks more questions about themselves and their work (Some good tips from idealawg here).
- Ask how my professional services / contacts might help them.
- Put out more content about my interests and projects on my online networks such as Twitter and Facebook to see if contacts can help or collaborate.
I would be interested to hear from other people who find themselves “doubly portcullised with…teeth and lips” (a lovely phrase from Shakespeare’s Richard the Second) through their own introversion.
Have you ever felt you have missed a networking opportunity?
How have you overcome your introversion to reach out to people?
What resources have you found useful to help overcome shyness when networking?
If anyone knows how I may contact Mr. Osmond I would love this missed opportunity to have a sequel blog entry with a proper interview with him!
Amy, I completely relate to your post. I, too am an introvert entrepeneur and find myself in situations where I need to engage with people and find it hard to muster the energy and courage to take social risks. Small talk is my least favorite thing to do in the world.
Amy Harrison says
Thanks Jay! Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to do the smallest social things when you’re introverted. 🙂