I have a coworker who routinely refers to me as the youngest misanthrope she knows. I prefer the term introvert, but I know what she is getting at.
Being a loner or having a reputation for being one isn’t unique and it isn’t something you need to fix. However, when it comes to the highly personal business of developing and benefiting from a mentor/mentee relationship, being uncomfortable in social situations of any size will hold you back.
But, there is hope. With a little work, even the self-described recluse can build a professional network that will benefit all involved.
Be honest to yourself. The worst thing you can do is try to pretend to be someone you’re not. Remember, a mentor/mentee relationship works best when it can be honest and frank. If your mentor thinks you thrive in a situation that actually makes you cringe, you won’t benefit from their counsel.
Don’t give in to the stereotype. Being an introvert or not being a people person doesn’t usually mean you dislike people. It is much more likely that you just don’t gain momentum from interacting with people the way some folks can get revved up from a good party or successful networking event. Know your limits, but recognize you can be appear in public and enjoy it so long as you balance with alone time later on.
Find someone who gets you. As I said, being a loner isn’t unique. The best advocates will appreciate that talent comes in many forms. Find that mentor who doesn’t pressure you into being something you are not and sees value in the unique insights that comes from someone who isn’t the usual model of an outgoing climber.
See the value of being different. Let’s be honest — outgoing people get most of the attention. They invite it and even promote it, but that doesn’t mean wallflowers have nothing to offer. Different motivations and perspectives have a lot of value and you shouldn’t undervalue what you, as a hermit, have to bring to a situation.
Don’t give up. It might not be easy to find the right partner when you yourself don’t exhibit all the usual marks of a mentee excited for a mentor. Think about how you can prove your value and interest through the activities where you are comfortable — being dedicated to a project or showing extra depth on a subject.
There is no perfect answer to finding a mentor and it is made more difficult if you’re not pre-disposed to reaching out and engaging others. However, it’s not impossible. In the end, give yourself — and your peers — a break and see what happens.