Introverts and Networking – How I Challenged myself on a Training in London
Introverts find it very challenging to attend social gatherings of any kind. Whether it’s a reunion of some sort, friend’s birthday party, clubbing on Friday night or work-related event, we tend to shrink into ourselves at the thought of meeting a lot of new people.
We’re not fans of small talk and can’t blend in easily. We find such events taking too much of our energy and this results in being completely exhausted after them.
If it’s up to us, we wouldn’t go at all and actually many times we don’t. But there are some occasions on which we know it’s for our highest good to make the effort and confront our unwillingness – as it was with a training I’ve recently done in London.
This was a fantastic learning and development opportunity. It was a course of training sessions over 5 months, one training each month in various fancy hotels in London.
It’s aimed to develop Women Leaders and as an avid supporter of women’s development, both professional and personal, I got very fond of the idea as soon as I heard about it.
The training was organised by my workplace but I had to formally apply for it and go through a very rigorous approval process. It was of a high monetary value and had time implications, so I was very happy to hear that I was selected and my employer was willing to invest so much in me.
The course was quite demanding – we had to prepare before each session, read articles, do some exercises in advance, think about the topic, there were recommended books as well. Being the lifelong student that I am, I really enjoyed doing the exercises and diving deeply into this new area of expertise.
Soon the first session came around – it was a full-day training day in late October and the venue was a hotel in Central London overlooking the famous Tower Bridge.
I was so excited about this new adventure that I started the day very early – wanted to make sure the traffic won’t delay me and I will have enough time to settle before we start. In the end, I arrived at the hotel an hour earlier, registered my attendance and enjoyed some coffee and warm pastries while waiting. I had come to the conclusion that leaving earlier in order to arrive at a new place and have time to have a look around and settle helps a lot with my anticipation as an introvert.
It’s so much more relaxing than rushing through, sweaty and anxious, and wondering how to sneak in without attracting too much attention. Also, for a city with the size of London, one thing is for sure – there are so many unexpected circumstances you can come across, that I usually double the time I need to get to a certain place. I’ve learnt this from experience and it always seems to work.
So, here I was at the registration room, having a quick chat with a few ladies (as it was a women-only course).
Once it got to 10.30, we were asked to proceed to the vast meeting room of the hotel and randomly pick a seat on one of the many round tables. The idea was to mingle, meet new people and not stick with people you know. Well, on that first session, I have to admit we sat together with a colleague of mine to relieve the discomfort of a first-time experience.
I should say that there were around 270 (!) women in the venue from all over England, from different origins, ages, institutions, professional levels and walks of life.
The training was very well-structured as it contained a facilitator leading for the whole day, several guest speakers with incredibly inspiring real-life stories and tons of practical exercises. The exercises had to be done either as a table (we were about 6-7 on each table) or in groups of 2 or 3. We also had a Role model at the table, a person who helped us on the spot, answered our questions and shared their personal experience of professional promotion. Most of the exercises were stretching me out of my comfort zone. We had lunch and several coffee breaks, which were again a chance to talk and network.
I realised that it was once in a lifetime opportunity to attend such a training and even though not feeling very comfortable to socialize, I managed to talk myself into being proactive and networking.
It was relieving to see that many other people were shying away and that actually most people felt like fish out of water on such occasions. It also helped me that I was being kind and patient with myself, I didn’t push myself too hard and was repeating to myself that what I was already doing was good enough.
I didn’t have to change my personality to take advantage of it, I just had to show up and try my best, while being considerate to my introverted nature.
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed all the 5 trainings, they brought me to amazing venues in Central London, met lovely, inspiring people, broadened my horizons, boosted my confidence, helped my career prospects.
So, to all of you my introvert friends, I know how you feel at social events but with the right mindset and self-care, you can open yourself to wonderful adventures and make lifetime memories. And to you – when was the last time you had to socialize and how did you go for it? What strategies do you implement to make it smoother?