If you’re like me, you weren’t able to read past the first word of this title without experiencing instant heart palpitations—no, just me?

All right, if you are somewhat like me, you identify yourself as an introvert; the idea of entering a large social gathering where you are expected to introduce yourself and hold conversations might cause a little tension in your neck, perspiration on your palms, or at least debilitating apprehension—ok, that last bit might just be me. Either way, these are not excuses to avoid networking. As a young professional, this is a critical step in entering the real world. Networking creates beneficial bonds that help you navigate and advance your career, in addition to forming friendships. As instrumental as this task is, some individuals—myself included—don’t exactly jump for joy at being in the midst of social crowds. But I have developed some tactics that help me to network as an introvert, and I hope will assist you.

Before reading any further, understand that introversion is not a character flaw and these tactics aren’t ways to help you change who you naturally are. Introversion is a personality trait that means one better develops and works through ideas alone. It is important not to try to force yourself to be an extrovert, and these tips may help relieve some pressure when attending necessary networking events.

1.Prepare beforehand: As an introvert, formulating questions and talking about myself on the spot are not my top two strengths. If this is true for you, do some research on the people who will be attending the meeting/event and develop a list of questions you want to ask. Also, prepare and practice a pitch describing who you are, what you’re currently working on, and what you are interested in doing career-wise so you have something to say if someone asks. Walking into the networking event prepared saves you from a lot of “ums” and awkward silence as you try to think of something to say.

2.Use social media to your advantage: Take some of the anxiety you might feel before going into a large networking session off by sending an email to some of the attendees before the event. In that email, express that you are eager to meet them, explain who you are, and enclose a link to your LinkedIn profile, blog, etc. Not only have you reached out, made an introduction and provided your marketing platform, but you’ve also given your pitch— you’ve gotten half the task done all before even having to speak!

3.Focus on one-on-one conversations: Don’t think you have to “work the room” in order to effectively network—play to your strengths. I find that when I speak to a person one-on-one, I am more comfortable and able to have a productive conversation while also laying the foundations for a solid relationship.

4.Follow up: This step is crucial no matter your personality type. Following up is the fundamental step in beginning relationships. Send a “thank you” email where you reiterate something from the previous conversation, to show you were listening and that you enjoyed meeting them. By keeping in contact with those you’ve met, you can also ensure that the next time you attend a networking event, you’ll see some familiar faces!

As stated before, introversion is not something to be ashamed of. You possess talents that are just as valuable as your peers who might be more at ease in large social events. Don’t allow your personality trait to hinder you from getting to the next level. Try applying some of these steps to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone.

What tips have helped you in networking situations?