Loners and introverts aren’t fun to be around and they’re terrible networkers. Bill Gates, Gandhi, JK Rowling, Einstein and Christina Aguilera are loners who did okay for themselves – but don’t risk it – you’re better off not being like them. Fake it until you make it. Even if faking it to expand your comfort zone makes you feel anxious and doesn’t really help life in the long run, you will make it. If you fake it.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a business recluse who doesn’t network, you might as well be a stuffed owl on a mantlepiece, looking all wise, but no one talks to you and you’re covered in dust – quietly thinking about stuff and hoping everyone leaves you alone. Come on, say something! Give a hoot! Put yourself out there otherwise, let’s face it, you’re going to die a lonely financial death.
And if you’re an introverted freelancer, you’re especially f*cked – running the risk of being the person it takes weeks to find slumped over a laptop in front of CNN – unaware that you’re seeing the same repeated story for the tenth time that hour.
How do you go about avoiding this? These are some tongue-in-cheek methods that may or may not have been used by Bill Gates and Christina Aguilera. Use with caution.
Remember sweet treats
Employing a smart device from fairy tales, lure colleagues to your desk (and into your life) with pastry or sugar. Even if you pretend to be listening to music on earphones when the loudmouths arrive to socialise and extrovert around your honey-pot-desk, you can awkwardly point at free treats and half smile, knowing that you’re not just office wallpaper for a few excruciating moments.
When someone brings birthday cake or baked muffins, consider it a personal attack on your quiet turf. Be prepared with better quality pastries to outshine your birthday nemesis.
Passive aggression is an invaluable business tool for introverts.
If you can’t out-pastry the oh-so fabulous social mavens, a sneaky dose of salt over their sweeties will dissuade anyone from ever trying their freebies again.
Send an all staff email
Agree to do everyone’s taxes for free, or make yourself available to house sit. While they swan around with selfie-sticks impressing their thousands of Instagram friends, you can get to know the contents of their Internet history on their home desktop. You never know how this info might persuade them to help you at work or convince them to give you a salary increase.
High five people walking into your building or standing in bank lines
Online banking is way more efficient, but that isn’t going to get your invisible face noticed. Visit a branch near your workplace at lunchtime. Stand in line and offer reassuring smiles to colleagues each time you pass them in that roped-off maze. You don’t have to talk to them, but you’ll be seen by workmates who aren’t going anywhere for a while. Almost like being a mildly expressive banking court jester who doesn’t work at the bank.
It’s the definition of a captive audience, and offers a lot of time to yourself. Yes it’s a risk, and self-defence lessons before making the move is a must. But business nowadays is all about niche. Not everyone can be a player on Wall Street or a star of Chinese cinema, but pretty much everyone is capable of going to prison. Choose a crime suited to networking – mostly white collar fraud.
Invite yourself to canteen lunches
Even if you keep excusing yourself to hyperventilate in a toilet stall, you made an effort. Good for you.
Have business cards ready
For when people forget your name, despite having worked with you for five years.
Fax handwritten notes with motivational quotes to random fax numbers
You’ll be surprised to find that every 100 random faxes will get you at least one response. And 1% of those responses might turn into a hot business lead or a low maintenance friend you can meet after work.
Try these tips if you’re up for the challenge. You don’t have to display George Clooney levels of charm, but you also don’t want to radiate office presence equivalent to vapour being sucked out of a vent. Good luck.