I call myself an introvert, and people are usually very surprised. I like talking to people. I talk all the time. I have no problem speaking up and asking questions (actually, I have to restrain myself). I actually enjoy getting up in front of a crowd of people and giving a rockin’ presentation. I have been shushed in the library, people, and I’m a librarian! So why do I consider myself an introvert? To me, extroversion is where a person becomes energized by being around people, and introversion is where she is drained by it. I have been known to recharge by spending an entire weekend without saying a word. But more than that, I know that I am an introvert because I hate, hate, hate networking.*
Networking is awkward. It’s exhausting. And I’m horrible at it. Talk to random strangers at networking events? Nope. And because I apparently like to throw myself into stuff that I am bad at, last weekend I spent Friday night and Saturday taking a networking class.
Imagine this: it’s Friday afternoon, and this is the first day of sun after two weeks of rain. I’ve had a full day at work, and all I want to do is go and sit outside on the patio with a book and maybe an alcoholic beverage. I’m tired, I’m cranky, and I’m going to spend 3.5 hours in a big room full of other tired and cranky people.
But somehow, I walked out of the Friday class energized, and feeling that maybe, just maybe, networking is not the horrible, soul-killing endeavour that I had thought it was. The great Alana Muller of Coffee Lunch Coffee brought a ton of presence to the workshop and positivity to the subject. Her energy was off the charts, and she changed my attitude around.
Muller was really great at breaking down the term “networking” into achievable components: here’s how you put together your introduction, here’s how you get started with contacting people. I feel like I took away some tangible tools that I can work with, but I know that putting them into practice will be the difficult part.
On a side note, some people in the class were already really good at networking, which was surprising. They were involved in networking every day because they were recruiters or in sales. Hearing these experts talk about feeling awkward, or needing areas to work on was a bit of an eye-opener to me. In retrospect, it seems silly. If your livelihood depends on connecting with other people, why wouldn’t you jump at the chance to work at it?
We broke for the day, and I resolved to immediately do the “homework” that she suggested we do, which was basically internet creeping on people with whom we were going to network at an event the next day. I went home and promptly fell asleep on the couch, because introvert + people = really tired.
*People networking. Not computer networking…that’s kind of cool.