I’m studying at the moment, and yes, I’m probably old enough that this automatically qualifies me as a life-long learner. It’s true that I love learning (although I confess assessment tasks are not my favourite) and I expect to be learning stuff until I die.
Like a lot of writers, I lean towards the introverted end of the scale. I don’t think that’s too surprising; writing is something you have to do by yourself, so unless you’re OK with spending large chunks of time on your own, you aren’t going to get much writing done.
However, much of our professional lives depend on successfully interacting with other people. This is just as true whether you’re a writer, a tech entrepreneur, a bank teller, a Fortune500 CEO or a student of digital communications.
I’ll do anything, just don’t make me do that
I doubt it’s news to anyone that interacting with people can be a challenge for introverts, but the truth is that networking is a daunting proposition for a lot of people, regardless of where you sit on the introvert - extravert spectrum.
Networking is of course only one thing that has generally lived outside my comfort zone. Other items on this list include:
As a communications professional I now do – or will need to do in the future – all the things on my list and more. Well not cliff diving; there’s no job I want that much.
As a digital media communications professional much of the work you do is behind the scenes but this is not the case when you are a digital media communications student. Now that I am studying communications, some of the items on the list that would have been optional for a comms professional (like making a video of myself) have become ‘must-dos’.
Don’t get ‘out’ of the comfort zone: stretch it to fit
While writing is not always easy for me, it’s something that does sit mostly within my comfort zone, because I’ve done it enough to be used to it. Even when it’s difficult, it’s at least familiar. I say mostly in the comfort zone, because writing can be an enormous source of stress for a working writer – but that’s an entirely different blog post right there.
I learned something really valuable in the last twelve months, but I didn’t learn it from writing. I discovered it while developing networking skills in my corporate job, and I applied it successfully recently when I decided I needed to do more videoing of myself to prepare for a video assignment.
This is: the best way to get used to something is to do it. By doing something – and not worrying about anything beyond the act of doing, i.e. no comparisons or quality checks – you can get more comfortable doing that thing even if you’ll never love it.
I believe that being comfortable doing something is a wonderful foundation (and a critical first step) for doing it successfully.
I can now go into a room of complete strangers, approach a group and begin a conversation. I don’t love it, I’m not even completely comfortable doing it, but I can network successfully and I’m meeting some amazing people. I’m able to pay enough attention to the conversation to enjoy meeting these people, because I’m not so uptight about worrying about how to talk to them.
We hear a lot about ‘practice makes perfect’ but that has always stressed me out. I am a perfectionist (yeah, there’s a shock confession) so that kind of advice just doesn’t help me. Worrying about how well I’m doing something has always been a major stumbling block in most of the things I’ve done, including training horses in dressage, writing fiction, studying, and my corporate career.
Being comfortable can be a good thing
I needed to network to be able to perform satisfactorily in my job. It was expected of me. Much like the shift from being a comms professional to a comms student, when I accepted this job, networking had moved from the optional list to the compulsory one. And a funny thing happened: networking became another one of those unpleasant-to-think-about-tasks like registering the car or cleaning the gutters. Unlike these annual events, I had to network frequently. So I learned that by doing something repeatedly, I can get used to it.
The first step is not to practice something to get better at it. That comes later.
It’s to do it to get used to it.
My advice for fellow students who are still at the total freak-out stage about recording themselves on audio or video is to find somewhere you can sit down with your video camera or your phone and get started. Don’t think about how good it is or if you’ll need to let anyone else see it; don’t think about anything beyond doing it. Make the video. Record your voice.
Do it, learn something from the results and do it again. And again.
I’m going to keep applying this to my own audio-visual (mis)adventures, and I’m also keen to apply this in other areas of my life where a fear is stopping me from doing.
Anyone know of a suitable cliff?
I'm a writer. I love words and story. I'm also rather fond of my husband and my dog.