Being an introvert but getting involved with your community
a shy, reticent person.
I'm an introvert.
For some of you reading this blog post that won't be news, you'll be sitting there nodding going, "Yip, that's the Sarah I know". Others will be sitting there pondering, "That doesn't sound like the Sarah I've encountered, I've seen her speak at events or been in the middle of large social groups and she doesn't seem shy."
You'd both be right, I can be both those people. I'm an introvert that tries very hard to be an extrovert in certain situations.
For me being an introvert means I struggle at things like plucking up the courage to attend user groups, or conferences or talking to strangers. Break times at conferences or user groups scare me the most, I'm too shy to go up to a group of people and join in the conversation. So you will often see me awkwardly standing about trying not to look too lost. Which hinders me at times.
There are times where I will pluck up the courage to attend an event because I want to hear a speaker, or session and then fail to network with other attendees but there will be other times where I will go to an event, volunteer as a speaker and network without an issue with others. Some days I'll be wearing the introvert hat and others will see me wearing the extrovert hat.
What I've discovered this year is I am not alone in being an introvert and struggling at times. There are other techies out there that are introverts and have to wear an extrovert hat. Which is comforting and reassuring. I guess we all have a bit of the introvert AND extrovert in us, and it's key to remember that. Both as a fellow attendee and an event organiser.
Advice to fellow introverts
My advice to fellow introverts that struggle like me would be please try and wear the extrovert hat sometimes. New doors have been opened to me since I've start to attend, speak and run user group events. I've found courage I didn't think I had, at times I've enjoyed myself and have met some really lovely and genuine people.
I know people who wear a piece of clothing, hat, t-shirt, trousers, etc that help to identify them or make them stand out so that it's a conversation starter. People come up to them and start a conversation because of what they are wearing and they don't have to be the on initiating the conversation.
Volunteer at a conference. I know that might sound like a strange one for a introvert to do as a first step but being a volunteer at an event gives you a purpose during the event. And it can be a conversation starter, if someone looks lost you can go up to them and offer assistance, even if that's as far as the conversation goes it's a start and you never know you might just have helped a fellow introvert.
Find a buddy. Find someone that can go to events with you. It's always hard walking into a room/venue that you've never been to and into a place full of strangers. I often find it very intimidating, so you'll often see me with my Mum. She's an IT Project Management Office (PMO) Lead, so attending these events is relevant to her day job. Having a friendly face there can help to ease things, especially on the first time. And you never know who your buddy might know at the event, six degrees of separation.
It's important to recharge either during or after events. It can be quite mentally tiring being in a room full of strangers and having to go out of your comfort zone and interact when you normally wouldn't. So if you need to take time at the event to recharge, take your lunch and eat it in a quiet area, grab a coffee and spend some time outside the event venue on your own. There is nothing wrong with that. You need to do what will help you in the long run.
Often after full day events, or multiple day events I need time just to be on my own which involves some Netflix binging or going to the gym. Take that time to recharge, take stock of what you learnt from the event both technically and personally and build from there.
Call to Action
If you see me at an event and I look shy and lost, please do come up and say hello. Equally if I look comfortable and am interacting with others, please come and join us. Tell me you read this blog post and I'll do my best to help if you are a fellow introvert. And I promise to try and look for fellow introverts at future events and get introduce myself.
As always if you’d like to reach out and speak to me about any of the above please get in touch via Twitter @TechieLass