10 Networking Tips for People Who Hate Networking

A job seeker chats with a recruiter at a job fair in San Francisco. What can you do to make networking less painful? Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Imagine yourself in a large conference hall at a generic chain hotel packed with hundreds of mid-career professionals wearing nametags. Herds of anxious-looking people mill about snack tables loaded with cheap crackers and cheese. Others are circulating through a maze of card tables where men and women in business casual attire have set out pamphlets and corporate-branded pens.

Your job, over the course of the next two hours, is to make a positive and lasting impression on as many of these people as possible. And maybe even find yourself a new job. Nauseated yet?

Networking is the art and science of building professional relationships, but few of us are naturals at it. There are many excellent reasons to network: to expand your client base, develop business partnerships, find a better job or find some better workers. The more people you meet, the larger your network and the greater the odds of finding the best customers, partners, employers or employees. At least that's the theory.

But for some of us, namely the many adults who identify themselves as introverts, networking events can feel like the first day of school all over again. "Just smile and introduce yourself!" your mom used to say. Yeah, right. Introverts shine in thoughtful, one-on-one conversations, not selling themselves to complete strangers with a snappy "elevator pitch." So how do you develop a strong and effective professional network if you hate networking?

We'll help you out with 10 practical and helpful tips for the networking-averse.