An invitation came in the post for me, to an End of Year celebration hosted by the Queensland Writers Centre.
Getting letters in the post is not something I’m used to. It’s nice when it’s not a bill or junk mail. It made me feel little bit important, to see a handwritten addressed envelope with my name on it. My heart swelled with glee. Somebody had been thinking about me and gone to all the trouble of writing my name down instead of nattering it through a printer. How peculiar that I would feel this way.
I’m an advocate of the digital age.
When I read the invitation, I felt three distinct emotions. Happiness; I’d been invited to a mixer. Confusion; why had I been invited to a mixer? Anxiety; now I was going to have to talk to people. There was never an issue of not going because getting to know your peers and potentially making contacts in the publishing industry is a good thing. I wasn’t planning on pitching my manuscript, because it was a combination end of year party and awards night, but getting to know people is always helpful. Practising and assessing my networking skills (or lack thereof) would demonstrate where I would need work.
I’m okay introducing myself when I’ve made eye contact. I’m okay carrying on a conversation, as long as I’m not consciously thinking about making contacts–should that happen I end up feeling ingenuine and that immediately stoppers my ability to chat. I’m terrible at breaking out of a conversation and moving along to the next person. I can’t ‘work the room’. I can’t ‘mingle’. As soon as I find someone I enjoy talking to and am comfortable with, I’m loathe to pull away from them in order to make myself uncomfortable somewhere else.
I’m an over-thinker.
A few days before the mixer I’d just been given some networking pointers about the best kind of groups to approach, and how to get past the weird ‘I’m-pushing-into-your-group-to-find-out-who-the-hell-you-are’ stage. Even armed with this basic knowledge, I was unable to follow the advice. The worst part is being aware of it while you’re talking to the person you’ve just met. Try and meet someone to give a good first impression while your brain is yelling ‘fraud!’ at you. Not easy.
I’m overly self-conscious.
After the mixer–which didn’t go too badly after all, even though I didn’t really ‘mix’ per se–I got home and sighed with relief. I know it shouldn’t be this hard, but I’m an introvert at heart. I can fake it ’til I make it, and that gives me the pseudo-confidence to at least approach people and start a conversation, but I’m highly uncomfortable in those situations.
I appears educating myself with the tips and tricks of networking is a double-edged sword. I already suck not knowing, and I already know enough for it to interfere, so I might as well learn more.