Networking for Introverts

 

No matter how badly you need a job or how hard you try, if you’re an introvert the quicker you accept the fact that networking is extremely draining and difficult for us the better off you’ll be. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean we can’t do it, it just means it will never be something that comes naturally.

Fortunately, like any other weakness, it’s only a weakness until you acknowledge it and do something about it.

The most important thing to note is that you only have so much social energy in a day (less than extraverts) so if you’re going to a networking event don’t spend the morning running errands or meeting up with friends, spend your time before you network alone so you don’t use up your social energy. It sounds like a video game (and that’s kind of how I think of it) but it’s true.

Once you arrive at the event but before you go in find a private mirror (in your car, using your cell phone in a bathroom stall, etc…) and smile to yourself genuinely and think about how great you are. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not (but I hope you do), this is going to psych you up! If you think you’re awesome the chances are good that others will think you’re awesome too!

Once you get in, survey the room, look for a kindred spirit, someone who is maybe shy or nervous and talk to them, it will build up your self esteem and theirs. I’ve found that complementing people helps me talk to just about anyone. It’s a way to get them to open up and get the conversation started. Another added bonus is that it also makes the other person feel good.  From there you can ask the other pertinent questions like “What do you do?” or “What brings you to the XYZ Networking Event tonight?” and move on from there, which is ultimately your goal.

I met one of my best friends in college at our school’s orientation, where she and I knew no one.  She was wearing a really cool pair of Pumas so I complemented her on her shoes. From there we started talking about the fact that we were both going to be freshmen in a month, and how scary/exciting/etc it was and the conversation progressed from there.

This brings me to my second point. I remember when I complemented my friend on her shoes she looked relieved that someone was making an effort to start a conversation with her, and at that moment she wasn’t completely alone at the orientation anymore. She and I both finally knew someone.  After all, isn’t being rejected or ignored ultimately every person’s worst fear in a new social setting?

By letting the conversation flow with strangers at a networking event you pretty much can’t lose. Think about it, best case scenario- you and the “stranger” have a lot in common so you’ve just made a new friend. Worst case scenario- even if you don’t really have anything in common with the “stranger” for a few brief shining moments you and that person are not alone at your awkward networking event which is also a win-win and gives you the confidence to strike up yet another conversation.

Once you get home maybe make a few notes or set a few reminders for yourself but be done for the day. Chances are good that you’re exhausted, accept that, watch some Netflix, eat some bad food and relax the way any good introvert would. Then be sure to follow up on those calls, emails, texts, etc… promptly tomorrow.

Advertisements

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This question has been haunting me for quite some time. I’ve always been surefooted and known what I wanted. In high school I wanted to go to college and study art history. Then I wanted to get my masters in architecture and become an architect. My plan was as simple as that.

I graduated college with a degree in art history and decided that I wanted to work in a museum. I started applying, but soon found I needed office experience. I took a temp position working in an office and was shocked to find out that I was actually pretty good at my job. I was promoted (twice) and really enjoyed managing people to help them meet their full potential and gain new skills.

I enjoyed working in management so much that I even thought about going back to school to get my MBA. I kept telling myself that it might not be a job where I get to be creative, and I might not love working in the mortgage industry, but I like the people and I liked being a manager. I could totally do this for the next 40 years. Right?

Wrong. Not long after my last promotion I started to get the itch to be creative. I did all sorts of things, redesigned my bedroom, worked on logos for my dad’s company, brochures, and I even tried to teach myself Adobe Flash (still working on that…) I realized that if I wanted to change my career now was the time. I’ve got no kids, no mortgage, hell, I didn’t even have a lease on my apartment.

I decided to leave my job and pursue a different career. I keep reading that my generation changes careers all the time so I thought this would be easy.

Turns out it’s not as easy as I thought it would be to find “Your Dream Career”.  A month ago I thought maybe I should become a teacher, for a while I was sure I’d go back to school for architecture. Currently I’m enjoying graphic design, but I’d also love to get into interior design. I also thought HR or becoming a career counselor would be fun…

See where I’m going with this?

It’s tough to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, and although it’s easy to get pigeon holed into a position that’s not right for you the reality is that people aren’t expected to stay at the same company their entire professional lives, let alone stay in the same career.

In the meantime I’ll give graphic design a shot, and if that doesn’t work out I’ll try something else. Either way I figure as long as I’m learning new skills, networking and striving for happiness in my career I’ll end up on my feet and in a career that fits my personality and makes me happy.