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Monday, August 13, 2012

Sucking at networking (and that's okay)

One thing I learned about myself at the conference last week is that I absolutely stink at networking in person. Seriously. Worse networker ever.* I cannot go up to groups of people (large or small) and weasel my way into the conversation. I can try to convince myself to do it all day long, but it's just not going to happen.

That being said, I am okay with going up to people who are also on their own. Maybe it's because they're not as threatening, or maybe I feel "in tune" with them more. Regardless, I can do that all day long and feel fine. I'm also very good with carrying on a conversation with people who approach me.

I'm not a huge fan of going to social events at conferences. I do try to stretch myself and go to a couple, but there's no way I'd force myself to go to all of them. In this case, there were four, so I went to two. That's pretty good in my books. 

I think my networking suckage was exaggerated by the fact that I did not know one person at this conference going in. It also didn't help that it seemed that everyone else at the conference has known each other for a lifetime.**

In the end, though, I've decided it's not something I need to work on and/or worry about too much. After all, this is who I am and I'm okay with that. I know it takes a lot of energy out of me to interact with others. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it (I do outreach for a living!) - it just means I need time to recover before heading back in. Plus, I still get lots of great ideas and contact information of people who would be good collaborators or otherwise - and, for me, that's really the point of conferences.

It's nice to be happy with the way I am.

If this sounds like you - or someone you know - I would recommend the book The Introvert Advantage. I also have Quiet in my to-read pile, another book written about and for introverts.

*I'm not looking for any advice on how to become a better networker here - I know all the things I'm "supposed" to do. I've read the articles and books - it's just not in my nature.

**And before you say it's in my head, the vast majority of the speakers were introduced by saying "and you all know this person, so they need no introduction **insert inside joke here**" followed by laughter of 95% of the audience. I actually wrote about this in the feedback survey because it was so common.