Professional networking is my personal hell

If there is one thing I’ve learned from people I know who have found new career opportunities, it’s that those opportunities have come to them through a connection they’ve made. I have heard no less than 2 people in the last month say, “This just kind of fell in my lap.”

WHAT?! HOW?!!!!

My lap covers some territory, and I’m not over here catching any specks of good fortune on the career front.

My stepmom always says, “You have to get in front of the right people.”

Well, shit.

I don’t exactly love being in front of people or being the center of attention. My most comfortable state is completely alone, anonymous, observing rather than participating. I recently took a personality test that put me at 86% Introvert and only 14% Extrovert. Basically, 14% of the time I want to be with other humans, and that sounds…uh…correct.

When I’m not at work, you might find me watching TV or reading a book alone. I prefer to run errands alone. I prefer to shop alone, and am often reminded of this whenever I invite a friend to the mall with me because I’ve forgotten how much I dislike shopping with other people. I go to yoga alone and speak to no one except when I give the teacher my name at the front desk.

My dudes and dudettes, this level of introversion is not a joke.

Harrison used to ask me, “Is this really all you’re going to do tonight?” as he leaves me on the couch with a book or a very deep Netflix queue on a Friday night to go to (probably) a comedy show or open mic. Then he stopped asking because my answer was always, “YES.”  Harrison spends a lot of evenings out at open mics, so our relationship has been incredibly accommodating. Some might say enabling.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I have a new friend who is constantly inviting me to get involved in things despite her own innate inclination to stay home. And as much as I don’t want to, I know I need to.

I spent the last two evenings at engagements geared toward young professionals with her. One of them is actually a choir, and I’m legit excited about that. I loved singing in choirs when I was younger, and at least I’m in a room with people working toward a common goal. The singing part I can handle, but the conversing with fellow singers is the hard part.

The other event was a happy hour for young professional at a fancy hotel bar and um, it was the worst.

First of all, I’m not fancy, and I always feel out of place in those environments. I own exactly one blazer that I think I’ve worn exactly twice. At a young professionals happy hour, you better bring your blazer. I am also THE MOST AWKWARD. I’m bad at starting conversations, and I am really terrible and feigning interest in things that I find absolutely dull. I wear my heart on my face. Eye contact with strangers? Lol. Please. I usually find myself following around the one person I know trying to interject myself in their conversations and doing a very bad job of it.

Introversion is not a condition that needs to be cured, but damn it’s hard to be an introvert in a world that places so much value the charismatic and gregarious over the quiet observers.

I’ll just be over here…tired from all the people-y stuff I’ve had to do and wishing I were at home.

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Via GIPHY

 

Work trip recap- when I did some serious #adulting

When I told my parents I was going to a conference for work, my stepmom’s response was, “That’s a very grown-up thing.” I think my parents forget that I’m almost 30 and that I occasionally partake in grown-up things. You know… like have a functional relationship with my live-in boyfriend, pay rent, care for pets, contribute to a 401k… shit like that. I don’t know this this will have anything to do with the rest of this post (I’m winging it). I mostly thought it was a hilarious response.

Since I am an “adult,” I (maybe selfishly) used this trip as an opportunity to work towards finding some answers for myself about a few things– not only about my “career,” but some other recent life developments. Sometimes, simply being away from home and by yourself can provide fresh perspective.

Can you tell the words “adult” and “career” make me a little uncomfortable?

One of the presentations I went to while I was at this conference was about fear and the role it plays in different parts of our lives, not just work. This one hour presentation forced me to look at some things I had been going back and forth on in my mind, and ask myself if the direction I was leaning in either of these situations had to do with my own fear or if it was something else. I’m trying not be too long-winded about my boring life, but maybe this will help someone.

Situation 1) I was presented with the opportunity to sing in a band, but after going to a rehearsal to try it out, I was really leaning away from it. I had to ask myself if this was because I was scared of doing something I hadn’t done in a very long time and was out of my comfort zone.

Situation 2) My manager at work told me that she thinks I should apply for a leadership training program. My immediate reaction was that I would absolutely not do it. I had to ask myself the same question.

I came to different conclusions for each of these situations. My biggest aversion from being in this particular band was not a fear of not being able to do it. I knew I could do it, and I knew I could do it well. I just didn’t want to. My biggest fear was that saying no would let some people down, but ultimately, I knew that saying yes would put me in a situation where I was dragging myself to rehearsal every week to sing cover songs that, for the most part, I find annoying. The saxophone player would continue to ask me for rides and would not reciprocate if I needed the same. I love singing, and I miss performing. But this wasn’t the right outlet for me.

In the second scenario, that was definitely fear. I’ve spent a lot of time at my job trying to fade into the background and not be noticed. I work hard to do well, but I tend to avoid risks or putting myself out there in ways like leadership opportunities. So, the day I got back to work after the trip, I asked my manager for the application.

I felt a sense of optimism at the end of that week. I felt a new sense of legitimacy in the work I do everyday, while also recognizing where my particular employer is behind. I also felt a new sense of confidence in myself and my ability to work through decisions and the anxieties I have that sometimes stop me from doing things that could benefit me.

I’m afraid a lot. I have hard time with new people at times, and I have serious fear of screwing up or sounding like an idiot. Letting that control me, I’ve realized, is a really good way to become stagnant in life and work. As much as I love and cling to stability and routine, doing the same shit all the time sounds real boring, and being an adult can be really fun and sometimes even exciting if you let it.

Hooray for being a grown-up!