Accidentally Networking as an Introvert

In preparation for the next semester, I recently attended a training held by my department.

The training started at 11AM. At 10:59AM, I knew precisely two people in the room: the person who hired me, and the person I had met at 10:45AM when we were the only two people in the room.

By lunch time, I had listened a lot and learned a lot, but I hadn’t actually met anyone else. And there were at least 50 people in the room – assuming I managed to feel un-awkward enough to introduce myself to someone, where would I even start?

Luckily, I wound up next to the woman who hired me at the lunch buffet. We chatted about a couple of things, and then I had the miraculous presence of mind to ask her:

“Who here should I particularly meet?”

Three minutes later, I had met the mentor for the particular class I’m assistant teaching, plus an assistant teacher experienced in that class.

Two minutes after that, she had pulled up up a chair at her table and I was having lunch with them, plus one of the teachers from the expert panel presentation and another experienced ESL teacher.

Did I just… did I just network?

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I’m an introvert who really likes people. Or maybe I’m a shy extrovert? Or perhaps I’m just in the middle, with a muddle of characteristics of both?

In any case, certain things that are second-nature to some are elusive revelations to me.

“Networking” doesn’t have to be slimy. It doesn’t have to be about trying to sell something or get something. It’s really not always about using people.

It’s super fun to meet people you share interests with and who you can learn from person-to-person. And it makes sense to ask someone who knows you and knows the network to point you in the right direction.

I overlook that a lot.

I also overlook that to a some extent, I can help connect my students with each other, with resources, with other teachers, with the department, etc.

My role isn’t just managing the classroom. I’m embedded in a network that can be useful to them, and sharing it might have even more of an impact than my obsessively planned-out lesson.

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee on Flickr

You’re reading Accidentally Networking as an Introvert, originally posted at LearningToTeachEnglish.com.

 

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Social Media is… well, Social

I have a lot of blog thoughts going through my head right now, and I think the theme that will tie them together into a relatively cogent post is that, at least for me, meaningful social media focuses on the social, not the media.

  1. Being social leads to the exchange of ideas and information.
  2. Ideas and information lead to friendships, alliances, and action.
  3. Using social media lets you be social with more people in a way that’s literally linked to the great information resource that is the world wide web.

You might have noticed that I linked to a Dinosaur Comic a line or two ago.  I did it because I have a soft spot in my heart for T-Rex, and also to make a point about the ideas and information we exchange: let’s not pretend that it’s all formal.  Not to say that it’s all informal either.  Some value I derive from social networking is directly, clearly work-related.  See?  I just helped advertise to a Twitter-based blood drive in Texas.  Way to forward a cause with social media, Emily.

But a lot of the value comes from less formal, more purely social interactions.  People don’t just swap lists of 10 ways to improve your website or strategy-of-the-day for saving money.  They swap thanks, compliments, and moral support, and in doing so build a sense that we’re on the same team.  I think of it as the cheerleader phenomenon.  On Twitter I mentioned I’d had sort of a rough day yesterday, and several people took a moment out of their days to offer a quick show of support.  Morgan, who I’ve never met, left the nicest comment ever on my blog last week and it totally made my day.  Last year my family made a Christmas wiki, which was useful and extremely fun to put jokes in.  And let’s not even get into how Twitter, blogs, email and IM let you stay in contact with friends and family you’re far away from.  So yes, social media is dead useful, but I find that what keeps me coming back is the human element.

I also really like how it supplements “normal” interactions.  For example, I commented on a coworker’s blog earlier today, a conversation that might have quick taken place in the office kitchen if we’d happened to be there at the same time.  I’m glad I heard what she had to say even though our paths didn’t physically cross today, and I hope to continue the conversation.  And see what I did just there?  I linked to her, the equivalent of meeting you in some other kitchen and bringing up the linked conversation.  I’m doing things I’d do anyway, just in a different way.

So I guess that the real, true draw of social media for me is that it gives us another way to be human to each other.

(For more about the “Why” of social media for nonprofits on a more organizational level, see the great project Beth Kanter has going.)

Ironically for a post all about being social, I don’t have a billion comment-prompting questions to put out there.  Nonetheless, comments, questions, and vaguely related thoughts are welcome.

Preparing for the Future

I joined LinkedIn yesterday, and to me it seems very old-school.  I can see what the Free Range Librarian meant about when she called it “spectral.”  I think the only thing I’d add to her amazingly apt description would be “limiting.”  Even though there’s a lot more room to talk about what you do at work than there is on Facebook, something about LinkedIn makes me feel boxed-in.  I don’t know, maybe it was just the ghostly interface, or that it was new to me.  

Ok, you caught me, I was just saying that to appear more open-minded than I’m really feeling.

Still, I did let it search my gmail address book for contacts and sent requests to 13 people who already have profiles, so I feel that I did my duty for my future-self who may someday wish for a solid career network.

Organizing all of my groundwork for the future is becoming a challenge.  I dabble in maintaining my contacts, keeping up my résumé and work portfolio, and exploring different grad programs to find My Path.  It’s hard to know what I’ve already done and to stay focused enough to build upon it instead of starting over again every few months.  One online solution I’m trying out is del.icio.us, but it’s not quite what I was envisioning.  What else is out there?