Overcoming obstacles – an introvert’s guide to networking
From Carly Green
2021/2022 IABC-MN Board Member
I’m an introvert. I clam up in new social situations, especially ones with large groups. Even in familiar situations, my natural tendency is to problem-solve on my own because asking for help sometimes just feels weird. It takes conscious effort for me to remember that I don’t have to know it all, I literally cannot do it all, and getting help isn’t weird. And, even though I’ve had plenty of years of experience that have shown me time and time again how amazing networking, partnerships, and teamwork can be, it’s still a big ask for me mentally – but it’s well worth the effort!
The benefits of networking
We’ve all seen firsthand our own version of the benefits of networking – the way a niggling thought can be catapulted into a fully fledged idea. The rapid growth from idea into action and then results. The benefit of just listening to an expert – or even just someone who’s passionate – talk about their field and always finding a nugget to take away.
However, an additional form of networking that I didn’t realize I would enjoy and learn from as much as I do is when I get to be the person who shares, teaches, or guides someone else. Talking about something that I’m passionate about to an individual comes much more naturally to me, and the feeling of helping someone take a step they didn’t know they were ready to take is an absolute rush. Not to mention that I always get to leave those conversations having learned something or had some epiphany that developed having bounced information off of a totally fresh mind.
How I overcame my own obstacles
The benefits of networking are easy to find – but how do you get there when it’s not your natural instinct? I certainly don’t have this perfected, but here are some things that I’ve noticed have helped push me to open up:
Lean on solid leaders to help prompt you out of your box
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really great leaders in my time – and almost every one of them has asked why I’m so quiet when I have great ideas to contribute. Their frankness pushes me to be honest and share my struggles with inserting myself into a conversation with dominant voices. And some of these amazing folks I’ve been able to work with have then taken it on board to then directly ask me for my opinion, ideas, etc. during a meeting – never to put me on the spot but instead just to ensure that I have space to speak comfortably. I really value that level of help in leadership and try to emulate that myself as a leader as well – we all bring strengths to the table in partnership with our weaknesses, and if we can work together to help each other bring out our strengths despite of any weaknesses that get in our way, we end up with a really great final product.
And, as these leaders somehow knew, once that barrier is broken, habits begin to naturally form. The dominant voices notice when the quiet folks aren’t speaking up and help to make space; and the quieter team members have a little more confidence to speak up.
Challenge yourself to try something new that branches off of something you’re comfortable and confident in
Taking my role on as a board member for IABC MN is a great example of this – I knew this role would be networking-heavy, and I knew that would be hard. But, the role was also in communications and specialized in operations, processes, and documentation – things that I enjoy and feel confident in. Because I was able to let my mind lean on the portion that I was confident in, I was able to push myself to try something that I wouldn’t typically try – and it has paid in dividends.
A wealth of opportunity in IABC MN
One of my favorite things about IABC MN is that we offer networking and learning opportunities for all types of people:
– Learning events, for those who simply like to listen
– A peer mentorship program, for those who prefer to connect individually
– Networking events and connection groups, for those who enjoy a larger group to interact with
– Volunteer and board opportunities, for those who want to be hands-on
Even though networking sometimes feels like a stretch for me, it is an incredibly valuable tool to use. Reach out if you have questions about membership or getting more involved in IABC MN!