Diversity Woman Magazine

WIN 2018

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: http://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/927951

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Page 21 of 51

We Mean Business > 20 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N W i n t e r 2 0 1 8 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m Understanding introversion Introversion isn't the same as being shy. Rather, it's a personality style in which one is more comfortable focusing on internal feelings than external stimuli. Introverts become energized when they spend time alone or with a few people they are close to, while extroverts get their energy from larger crowds. Another common belief is that all introverts are quiet. But that's not true, says Morra Aarons-Mele, MPA, a self-described in- trovert and founder of the digital market- ing firm Women Online. "e thing that we do have in common is we get drained by demanding social interactions." Figuring out how to deal with that en- ergy drain is what led Aarons-Mele to write the book Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out ere (When You'd Rather Stay Home). "It's the book I wish I had had," Aarons-Mele says. "I left the corporate world 11 years ago and all I knew was I was unhappy. I kept, not just hiding in the bathroom, but crying in the bathroom because I was functionally good at my job but I felt like being in a big office literally drained the energy out of me." Introverts tend to be very anxious about networking, says certified speak- ing professional Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, author of e Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength. Not only do they often worry about what to say, but they know that they can feel over- whelmed when they have to interact with a lot of different people. Yet it is clear that networking can propel one's career. Ac- cording to McKinsey & Company's 2017 Women in the Workplace report, women receive less advice about advancement and have fewer interactions with manag- ers and senior leaders. "As an introvert you, oftentimes, fall under the radar because you're not out there," Kahnweiler says. On the flip side, "extroverts like to meet people for cof- fee. If they have a day without lunch with somebody or a conversation they're depleted." e good news is introverts can learn to network effectively. But first they must learn how to do it from a po- sition of strength. Taking the plunge Introverts may naturally want to avoid networking situations, so it's important that they push themselves a little. at's what Rashea Jenkins, 29, a communica- tions manager for telecommunications firm Frontier Business, did. "I wanted to get better at networking with people and not just rely on some- thing like LinkedIn or online groups," Jenkins says. To improve her skills, she forced herself to attend monthly net- working sessions with other marketing and communications professionals. Ini- tially it was excruciating. "For the first three months I'd make eye contact with someone and then directly turn away," she says. But she kept going back. One tactic that helped her become more comfortable was coming up with a concrete goal. She set the intention to have a conversation with at least one person each session even if it was the person who sat down next to her or the one standing behind her in the line for snacks. Over time she increased the number of people she would talk to. Another strategy that helped was find- ing someone who looked as uncomfort- able as she felt approaching her or him. "I've had various levels of success, from extremely awkward two-minute conver- sations to connecting with someone and getting together afterward," she says. e more she did it, the easier it became though it is still a challenge at times. Her willingness to embrace her introvert ten- dencies also helped her to get promoted. "It wasn't until I was talking to my CEO that I realized one of my introvert quali- ties was a key in becoming a manager," she says. "I was a giver of attention in- stead of a seeker, and my introspective nature was an asset in that I could teach what I learned to others, so no one per- son had a monopoly on knowledge." Managing the energy drain ere's a general energy drain that hap- pens when introverts are in networking situations, Kahnweiler explains. "I call it people exhaustion." Taking time to rest before and after the event can help. So can taking breaks to recharge and re- energize. If you're at a conference, that might mean making a short stop in your hotel room. If you're at a day-long event, you might need strategic visits to the restroom, or take a brisk walk dur- ing lunch. Introverts can learn to network effectively. But first they must learn how to do it from a position of strength. ISTOCKPHOTO

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