I try to be as upfront and honest as possible about my worries and insecurities, both in blogging and just in life in general.
I figure: We're all, more or less, suffering from the same things – doubt, insecurity, stress, anxiety – so it's important that these thoughts and feelings are spoken about openly. By making them part of our regular dialogue, we're making these feelings normal (which they are), less embarrassing (which they shouldn't be), and also not scary (and they're not).
Kind of a "we're all in it together" deal. Because we are.
After attending my first Alt Summit this weekend – a blogger conference, for those of you unfamiliar – I started thinking about networking. How much I was enjoying it during the conference, and how much of a contrast that enjoyment is with other aspects of my personality.
Networking is of course a professional necessity across nearly every career path as well as one of the seemingly most difficult things an introvert will have to face. Also, it feels like an outdated and out-of-touch word.
As I've mentioned before, on top of being an introvert I've also struggled with insecurity in the workplace. So imagine how someone like me, and maybe you, feels when the idea of networking comes up. Panicked.
I instantly picture navy (why always navy?) skirt suits with shoulder pads, polyester blouses, sheer black panty hose, briefcases, name tags, coffee in styrofoam cups, stuffy ideas, and false pretenses. As underwhelming as that situation sounds, doesn't it also sound incredibly intimidating?
I (obviously, I hope) don't do or wear any of those things, but I'm a huge networker, and it's something that I get enjoyment, energy, and fulfillment from on a near-daily basis. Don't forget, I'm also introverted and struggle with many of the issues that define the idea of an introvert. It's just that I've found ways of networking that work for me, and I love and use them all the time.
Here's the secret to networking that people don't really tell you about: It's pure and basic connection. It's being friendly with like-minded folks, helping each other out, and staying in touch. Kind of like you do with your friends, but in the case of networking it's just that your relationship is based on something professional. Big whoop.
From my style of networking, I've gotten jobs that I wanted in New York, made friends with total strangers in London, connected with plenty of other bloggers, and cemented professional relationships.
And anyway, the very idea of networking is ever-evolving. It goes without saying that networking is so not what it used to be, but I think a lot of people – maybe particularly introverts – are anxious about the very concept of networking because the old ideas are stuck in their heads. You know, like the example I mentioned earlier – that networking = name tag, bad coffee, panty hose.
Yes, it's important to put yourself out there and meet new people to grow yourself both as a person and as a professional. But remember that you can do these things in a way that works for you. If there's someone who you'd like have as a connection, introduce yourself. If you'd like to pick someone's brain or maybe have just developed a mad girl crush, set-up a one-on-one coffee date in a place that makes you feel comfortable. Need to widen your network? Bring a friend or co-worker to a conference you've been wanting to attend. Or, scrap that all together and sign-up for a virtual conference. Just be sure to stay in touch with your fellow attendees.
Like anything in life, getting by professionally as an introvert just requires finding what works for you. It might be the same things that I do, or might be totally different. Either way, learn about yourself, figure out a few go-to networking tools, and you're set.
Now: Want to get a cup of coffee?
Introverts: Need more support? Check out this Design*Sponge article on building your business as an introvert, and by all means, please read Susan Cain's Quite: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. There's a lot of us out there!