It's not just you, networking is stressful.
Networking is tedious. It doesn't need to be.
Last year I went to a 3-day training conference that was attended by hundreds of people. On the flight back home I remember reflecting on my wasted networking opportunity as I counted on my fingers the number of new connections I had made. A colleague of mine who accompanied me to the same conference probably made a hundred. He would shake hands, introduce himself, hand out business cards to as many as 7-10 people in every session, over every lunch and every coffee as I watched in awe from the corner.
It is something we all know we must do. We know the power of large networks and the difference this can make to our careers. And yet if like me you are an introvert, meeting strangers and talking about yourself sounds extremely tedious.
It doesn't need to be this way, and we need to stop measuring networking success by the number of people you added on LinkedIn at the end of a conference. There is a growing opinion that introverts might actually be better at networking because the connections we make are deeper and more meaningful. We find networking stressful not because we are bad at it but because we force ourselves to get out there only when it is absolutely necessary. As a result we are there only to ask for something - a referral, a job, a recommendation - and knowing this can be very discomforting going into a conversation.
The way around this is to network more often and without an agenda. Meet someone for a coffee to genuinely learn about what they do. People like to talk about their jobs and businesses so you mostly just have to listen, and that's right up our alley. Make a list of people you would like to network with and start making connections one at a time. Do this consistently and you will find that those opportunities - jobs, referrals, recommendations - are coming your way without ever asking.