In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Thursday, June 09, 2011

In My Words: Networking: It's Not All About You

I am an introvert.

Most people who know me don't believe me when I say that. Why? Because I don't mind leading out in a group, being the first one to say hello, the one to get the conversation started. I am, on occasion, the one standing in front of a group as the speaker of the day--and I enjoy myself while I'm front and center.

But when all is said and done, I'm quite content to exit stage right (or left) and retire to the back of the room.

If there's one thing I've learned since stepping into the writing world, it's that you have to find some way to get comfortable interacting with other people.

You have to learn to network.

Networking. Does the thought of mingling with others make you want to walk into your office and close the door--but only after you've hung a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the handle?

You're not alone in your angst--but you've got to realize that developing relationships with other writers--and yes, editors and publishers--is not optional. Who you know truly does make a difference as you pursue your writing dreams. Someone you meet may be the very person that opens the door to a valuable critique of your work in progress (WIP). Or maybe they connect you with an agent who'll consider you for representation. Or maybe . . . just maybe they'll be that editor who says, "Send me your manuscript. I can't wait to read it!"

Yes, networking will benefit you in ways you never imagined.

But let me ask you a question: As you meet new people and develop friendships, who are you thinking about? You? Or them? Have you ever considered how you could encourage someone else--rather than thinking about what's in it for you when you do the whole "Hello, my name is" routine?

Networking is a two-way relationship--whether it be face to face at a conference or via Twitter and Facebook and blogs. Networking isn't a monologue. It's a dialogue between you and someone else. There should be equal parts talking and listening going on--equal parts give and take.

Networking is a lot more fun when I don't worry about what's in it for me. Instead, I like to stop and pray about who I might meet, who I might encourage. There's less stress when I'm talking with others about themselves and talking less about me. Besides, I know me. I want to find out other people's stories!

In Your Words: Do you enjoy networking? Have any tried and true methods for connecting with others? If I met you at a conference and asked, "How'd you become a writer?" how would you answer? 

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At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Tonya said...

The more I learn about you...the more I see how much we have in common. I'm an introvert as well and everything you've said here is true. Had I not finally started interracting with others in every area of my life...I would be missing out on some wonderful friendships that have been true blessings to me. Thanks Beth!

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Lisa Jordan said...

I hear you, Soul. I'm an introvert too. God really started working on my introverted heart in 2005, I believe. At the 2006 or 2007 ACFW conference, I think, I met two girls who I became friends with through encouraging them. It was their first conference and they felt clueless. I saw one of them at the 2010 ACFW and she told me how much my encouragement meant to her. I walked away feeling blessed by that. Before I leave for the conferences, I ask God to use me to bless others.

I enjoy online networking more than talking in a room with strangers. I'm praying now and asking God for courage for booksignings. The thought of them makes me sick to my stomach. Ugh.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Keli Gwyn said...

I'm another introvert, Beth. I like the title of your post. When I remember that networking isn't all about me, it helps take the fear out of connecting with new people. If I think about the other person and what I can do for her, I'm able to take the focus off myself, overcome my natural reticence, and reach out.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Good morning to all you other introverts!! There's more of us out there than you'd think!
It's seems we've all discovered the cure for the fear of networking: focusing on the other person & having fun learning about her (or him.)
And sometimes you just have to fake it. Usually, before I know it, I'm no longer faking it--I really am having fun!

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Sandra Ardoin said...

What you said, Beth, is like what Terry Burns said in his ACFW course. Sometimes, you have to pretend you're someone else. You should also discover what you admire in other people and adopt some of those ways when speaking to people.

Even though I enjoy networking online, I worry that what I say will be taken wrong or sound stupid. I don't want to offend anyone or show my ignorance. :-)

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

I like Terry Burn's approach--sometimes I do have to pretend to be someone else--someone extroverted!
And I find it's very difficult to offend someone else when I'm being interested in them and asking questions about them!

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jeanne T said...

Great post, Beth. I'm a sometimes introvert--usually in unfamiliar circumstances. The idea of entering into a new relationship with my eyes and heart focused on the other person is such a good one. When I'm focused on another, I won't be so consumed about what might be in it for me. Thanks for your perspective!

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

I think it sums up to "considering others more important than yourself." Networking can be such fun. I've met some wonderful people at conferences and online. They've become friends and mentors.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Julia M. said...

Great thoughts, Beth. Once I realized most people seem to feel this way to some degree, it was much easier for me to open up. If I think of myself as 'networking', then I kind of choke, but if I think of it as allowing God to guide me--lead me to meet new people with interesting ideas, etc., take me to new places, I can enjoy... I know--mind games.

How did I become a writer? I would have to say I kind of feel I was telling stories with my art first.
I've always enjoyed word-craft. Also, I'd catch myself concocting scenes in my head, or mentally reworking movies or shows to my liking.

But honestly, I don't think I would have ever completed a book without the invention of the computer! Typewriters-correction ribbon-carbon paper--YUK!!!

Editing on the computer is heavenly...LOL :)

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Thanks for sharing your "how you became a writer" story, Julia.
And I'm with you--love the computer. My favorite key seems to be the backspace key--and the delete key.


At 11:56 PM, Blogger Stacy S. Jensen said...

One of my former bosses always said, "Newspapers get things done." I find myself sharing links or Tweets with people that I think might be helpful. I guess, I'm still trying to live up to that newspaper motto. I just don't work for a newspaper anymore. It's just me and social media — connecting one comment at a time.
I began writing, because I had a lot of questions. I discovered as a journalist, I could find answers to those questions.


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