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Introvert by nature, ambivert by experience

As a child I was painfully shy. All through elementary school it was clear as day that I was an introvert. My teachers would call on me to respond and I would squeak out an answer at times. But once in a while, I would be so caught off guard by being put on the spot that I would just sit in silence, growing redder and redder in hopes she or he would move along to another student and all eyes would be shifted to a new focus.

As I’ve matured, the introverted nature is still a part of me, but I have learned to be more charismatic and prepared to be put on the spot. I’m now working in a field that involves a mix of working quietly on my keyboard at a distance from the world around me, and one of schmoozing at events, interviewing notable figures and overseeing the work of other writers.

We live in a world of the extrovert, always impacted most by those who are happy to shine in the spotlight. It seems that to succeed in the world of business and entrepreneurship, the introvert has to adapt.

 What I’ve learned is that personalities can complement each other.  People can flourish in any situation when they embrace who they are innately and determine their passions. Spending time alongside others often causes those with opposing personality types to naturally adapt and bring their own strengths to the table. What is now clear to me is that all have value and a bit of extro/intovert in them because of connections they make and through experience.  Just as I have been coaxed to be more extroverted, I’m sure extroverts are inspired to observe and step out of the spotlight because of their own personal and professional experiences.

My lovely co-worker and I were both chatting about our innate introverted natures and she shared that there is now a new term for those of us who are forced daily to put on the extroverted appearance.  Behold, today I am an ambivert.

 

 

 

10 networking tips for introverts

There is a reason I am a writer. I tend to express myself best through the written word, where I can carefully craft my sentences and ensure I use the proper vocabulary.

In person, I’m a bit of a spaz. I tend to ramble and use a lot of “ums” and “ahhs” as I search for the word I’m looking for. The mere thought of edging myself into a group or conversation with people I don’t know sends slight chills down my spin. It’s  only after circling the room numerous times that I can build up the courage to walk up to someone and introduce myself.

Unfortunately for introverts like me, networking is truly the only way to get ahead in business. So, Women’s Post has compiled a few select tips that should help you at that next conference or public event.

 

Do a bit of research before hand

What kind of people will be at the event? Do a little bit of research on the potential players of the industry. This will allow you to find some common ground and potential conversation starters. For example, I heard you merged your business last year — how has the transition been? I find that this research also helps calm me down. The more I read, the more comfortable I feel about networking.

Start small

Set small and reasonable expectations for yourself. For example, get at least five business cards or speak with three executives. This way, the networking event doesn’t seem so daunting. You can also set a time limit for yourself — stay at the event for at least an hour before making an excuse to leave. The more events you attend, the bigger your expectations may be.

Arrive on time

People generally have this innate instinct to arrive fashionably late.  The argument derives from past experience — I arrived on time and no one else was there or the hosts were still setting up. Generally, networking events are well managed and are meant for punctual people. If you arrive late, the other participants may already be huddling in their groups, making it difficult to get in the conversation. If you are part of the select group that arrives on time, it will be easier to

Ask open-ended questions 

Conversation is the most important aspect of a networking event.  Make sure to push those nerves aside and actually listen to what people are talking about. Don’t simply ask what people do for a living. Ask lots of open-ended questions relating to their work, politics, or hot topics being discussed at that moment — anything that will incite further conversation. Always remember, especially upon an initial interaction, it’s best to focus on the person/people you are speaking with instead of becoming the center of attention.

Fake confidence

Not everyone can have the confidence of an extrovert, but you can fake it. Stand up straight, hold your head up high, and speak with authority. Be yourself — if you’ve got a bit of a stutter like I do, don’t worry about it. Just be kind, smile, and pretend as if it’s no big deal. Simply walk up to someone and ask if you can join them. If you need a line, try this: “I’m here by myself and your group looked like they were having the most fun. May I join you?” Be sure to tell them to continue their discussion and you will catch up.

It’s okay to use a little liquid courage, but remember this is a professional event. If you drink, don’t get drunk.

Practice your pitch

If someone asks you what you do or what organization you are with, you should be able to answer with ease and a commanding authority. Keep the answer short, between one and two minutes. Quickly outline who you work for and what your responsibilities include. Make it sound impressive and be sure to mention any special skills you may possess. Have a story in mind if someone asks you for an example of your work. You never know who you will meet, and if you happen to be speaking with a potential employer, it’s important to note how invaluable your skills are to your current or past company.

Know your business card etiquette

DO make sure to bring business cards. DO NOT throw them at everyone you meet. Networking opportunities shouldn’t be about gathering as many contacts as you can. Instead, make it about building relationships. Give out your cards only if you feel as if you truly connected with a person and you see a future relationship brewing. Feeling uneasy about whipping out those cards? Try saying this: “I would love to get in contact with you, do you have a card?” By asking them for the card first, it gives you the opportunity to hand one back in return. I find this a lot easier than asking if they want my contact information.

Connect with organizers

Networking events typically follow a theme and are industry specific. Making friends with the organizers of the event will give you a heads up as to when future meetings may take place. They may also be able to introduce you to key players or tell you who to look out for. This type of information can be invaluable.

Follow-up with connections

During the networking event, don’t try to sell anything. Your one job is to be presentable, approachable, and impressive. A few days later, take a look at the business cards you collected or look up the names of the people you met on social media. Send them an email reminding them of who you are and of how enjoyable their conversation was.

Keep the message short and offer to buy them coffee so you can continue the conversation. If you do want to sell something (a product, or yourself for a job), be up front about it.  Say you have a proposition for them, and would love to buy them lunch to discuss it. No one can refuse free food!

Just do it!

Go to networking events and put yourself out there. Sure, it will be incredibly nerve-wracking at first, but, and it may seem cliché, practice makes perfect.

 

Did we miss anything? Tell us your networking tips in the comments below!

An introvert takes pole fitness

It was just starting to get dark as I walked into Seduction, a boutique sex shop. As I weaved through the rows of bustiers and various frilled and laced lingerie, I couldn’t help but think “what did I get myself in to.” On the third floor of Seduction on Yonge and Wellesly is the Brass Vixens studio, where a group of women were getting changed to participate in a beginner level pole fitness class.

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I was about to become one of those women.

Before saying much more, I have to explain something. I’m an introvert — I don’t often think of myself as sexy and I certainly wouldn’t wear anything that could be found at Seduction. My idea of a workout is going for a run or doing some yoga in my living room. Solitary activities mostly.

I’m also a short, overweight woman with large arms, chubby thighs, and a bit of a tummy. I’m not ashamed of how I’m built, but it did make me a bit self-conscious when I walked into the class and say the other women wearing booty shorts and shirts showing their midriff. (For those interested, I wore tights that went to my ankles and a long, loose sleeveless shirt.)

The studio was dimly lit, with about a dozen metal poles evenly spread throughout the room. Music was lightly playing in the background as our instructor, Lady Kori, walked to the centre of the room. I slowly raised my hands when she asked if there were any newbies to pole fitness, and she smiled when I expressed concern regarding my upper body strength. “Not to worry,” she said. “We will do some exercises that will help build that muscle.”

The class begins with a few simple stretching exercises and a sexy saunter around the pole. Arms outstretched, we were encouraged to strut on our toes as if in heels (for those of us not quite comfortable enough to already be wearing them). We would switch directions with a squat/dip, pushing out our bums and rounding our hips. Every once in a while she would tell us to drop and spread our legs, flashing our partners. I avoided all eye contact with both my partner and the giant mirror on the wall, which instead of making me feel sexy, made me ever so aware of how foreign those body movements were to me. During one round, Lady Kori said to toss our hair and give our bums a slap. I burst into a giggle fit. Suffice to say, I felt a bit ridiculous — I also may have skipped the slap.

We then moved on to try some spins, which I loved! Something about the speed of the turn was exhilarating. It also felt good to do a move that felt a bit more athletic and not particularly “sexy”.  Then, we tried to lift ourselves off the floor. That was a bit more challenging. I would tighten my grip, curl my biceps into the pole, jump …. then sink slowly down to the floor, my hands squeaking against the metal. I felt more like a fireman than a pole dancer.

We then combined all of the moves — the walk, the dip, and the jump. Sultry music played in the background as we whipped our hair, stuck out our hips, and twisted around the pole, sliding up and down as if a we were a bear trying to scratch its back. It may have all felt a little awkward, foreign, and downright weird, but I am proud to say that by the end of the class, I was able to lift myself off the ground for at least a few seconds, spin around the pole, and land in a semi-perfect squat position.

Despite the physical setbacks, it was a fun evening. Lady Kori was an excellent instructor. She would circle around the room and give advice to each person individually.  She knew which muscles were being used and was able to explain exactly how to move your body so that the lifts and spins worked your core and biceps properly.

The one thing I didn’t like about the class was that you had to share a pole. You can get quite close to your partner, flashing them during the dips and touching each others hands during the turns. This would be a perfect class to go to with a friend — it would avoid the awkward eye content and nods of approval you felt like giving your partner. The pole sharing also cut into the class time. During jumps and lifts, only one person could use the pole at a time, which meant that an hour class was actually 40 minutes of fitness. When we weren’t working the pole, we just stood to the side of the room. It felt like a bit of a waste.

The first-timers were also not told of the fact there were different sizes of poles until the end of the class. Once I tried a thiner pole, I realized how much easier it was to use. I didn’t have to stretch my palms to get a grip on the slippery metal.

At the end of the class, a friend of mine texted me: “So, did you feel sexy?” I answered: “no, not really.” But, I don’t think that was the class’ fault. It’s hard to make someone “feel sexy” in the span of 60 minutes, especially if they didn’t walk into the class feeling that way.

After saying that, the class did make me feel more confident in my skin. It made me feel like it was okay to move sensually — and that I was actually capable of doing it! Who knows? Maybe the next step is to pick up one of those laced bustiers.

…On second thought, maybe not.