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Confessions of a Networking Introvert  

By Neil Bazley, Vice President, Chapters, IIBA  
 
introvertBusiness Analysts can often be characterized by a few common traits:
  • Concentration while solving problems
  • Gathering and processing complex information
  • Planning skills and strong follow up ability
  • Analyzing and formulating thoughts before speaking
There’s another group of people that share these traits. They’re called introverts.
 
Depending on the study and methods, it’s estimated that between 25% and 50% of the people in the world share a strong bias to introversion. In a business context, not only do the above traits often apply, but these do as well:
  • We don’t get our energy from being in social situations, it drains us. It doesn’t mean we don’t like or can’t interact in groups. It’s just that after we’re done, we’re DONE and we need time to recharge.
  • Related, when in a larger group, we find that having multiple conversations going on at the same time is distracting. We lose focus and have a hard time following any conversation. Then we tend to withdraw.
  • We’re not rude (at least not in a higher percentage than the general population) but we tend to be very direct and have little patience for small talk, or as I like to call it “non-value add conversations”. It doesn’t feel natural to us and we find it hard to engage.
Yes, I said “we”. I am an introvert. Sometimes that shocks people. I’m a fairly high energy person. I’ve been told that I’m engaging and a good conversationalist. I’m certainly not shy. As a matter of fact, get me in a one-on-one conversation about a topic I’m passionate about *cough –business analysis* and I’ll talk all night! But having said that, every one of those traits above is true of me, both the ones that look like strengths and the ones that can be challenging.
 
Networking is difficult for me. My natural tendency is to fade into the wallpaper and watch people all night when I get into a room full of them. I’d rather be stapled to a badger covered in ants than approach a stranger and talk to them.
 
I realized that with my career goals and my desire to be the best BA I could be, I had to find a way to turn this weakness into—if not a strength—at least something that wasn’t going to take me down a tunnel of endless data structures and system analysis (Important stuff! Just not what gives me energy…).
 
So, I took what some people would call a radical approach. I put my name forward to be the Chapter President of my local IIBA® chapter. My reasoning was that if I didn’t face my discomfort head-on I would continue to take the path where I just floated around the edge of the networking events until I had stayed an “appropriate” amount of time so that I could dash out with my conscience clear.
 
It worked for me. Being President made me visible in a group situation. I couldn’t avoid either the events or the people at them. It was my job to talk to people and make them feel at home! That’s how I actually started to approach it. I would find that one person standing alone in a chapter networking event and I would talk to them. After all, they were almost positively as uncomfortable as I was! Once we got talking, I would bring another person into the conversation. I always had an agenda—to find out how they became business analysts. To me that wasn’t small talk, I find the stories of how people became part of our discipline fascinating. I asked questions and got people to open up. And not surprisingly, the people that I talked to and made feel comfortable, felt like part of our community. And they came back to more IIBA events, and they became volunteers for the chapter. And some of them grew to take on leadership roles of their own.
 
I’m not sure I could recommend my path for all introverted BAs. I chose it because I feel the most productive when I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I can recommend the following if you feel that networking is important for your career and self-development.
  • Join your local chapter—and even volunteer.
  • It might go without saying, but go to the events.
  • Find another person just like you—the one standing by herself and calculating in her head how much longer she has to stay before she can make a graceful exit.
  • Start a productive conversation—find out something interesting that he’s working on and then relate it to what you are doing.
  • Stop when you’re drained. Get their card and take them out for lunch to continue the conversation. As introverts, we can all use some one-on-one time as much as we need our alone time.
Editor's Note: The photo is not of Neil Bazley.
 
©iStockphoto.com/mattjeacock