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Networking. Or, being an introvert in an extroverted industry.

Today I committed to attending our town’s monthly photographer get-together for August.  My husband and I have attended exactly one of these in the last three years.  Here’s the thing: it was FUN!  There was beer and sushi and laughs, not too much posturing, and I got to spout off about things I knew better than they did because I’m a billion years older than almost everyone else in the industry (APPARENTLY).  I had a blast.

And then the announcement for the next monthly meeting showed up on my Facebook Timeline, and I was like “Oh. Ew. People and things.”

I’ve somehow spent the last twelve years of my career attending almost NO networking meetings, and very few conventions.  At the conventions I’ve been to, I ducked out of classes to go hang out with the cool kids at the casino or in the bar.  I spoke at a convention once (badly!  OH SO BADLY!), and that was probably the worst experience of my life.

I suck at networking.

We get invited to the coolest sounding parties and shindigs in town, almost weekly.  And, don’t ask me why, but when we don’t attend said cool parties PEOPLE ASK WHERE WE ARE.  As though we’ve ever been to a single party!  I don’t get it either.

And you know what?  This isn’t some shitty tactic to appear cool or mysterious or “better than”.  I really can’t stomach the thought of choosing which of my three pairs of jeans to wear (this should be easy – THE PAIR THAT FITS), or which side of my head to part my hair.  I can’t deal with the idea of small talk and chatter, or of listening to some blowhard talk about how he’s booked ninety-seven weddings in the last two weeks “at an average of twelve thousand dollars!  Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal”.  In my head, all networking meetings are exercises in bullshittery, and the thought of that makes my tummy hurt.

But it’s time for me to get out of my head and off my ass, and start showing up to these meetings.  Photographers are awesome people.  OK, some of them are douchey, but MOST photographers are pretty rad.  And they want to know that I’m alive so they can send me business (right?).  We don’t have to bring our bank statements and a notarized copy of each of our wedding contracts with us to gain admission.  And there’s BEER!  What on earth am I afraid of?

This post is for the probably 10% of us who avoid networking opportunities like the plague.  You beautiful introverts, you.  You’ll find every excuse to stay home, buried in work, reclusive and anti-social.  I’m an introvert too.  Social outings EXHAUST me.  If you’re like me, you’re exhausted just THINKING about attending a social networking event.  I mean, is there a greater torture on earth?

Well, not networking has probably lost me enough work to pay for jeans that fit a hundred times over.  So let’s make a deal, you and me.  I’m gonna GO to this monthly meeting.  And then next month?  I’m going again.  YES I AM.   And I’ll post about those meetings and let you know how they went.  Your part of the deal is this: join a local group of photographers (or, hell, start one – with Facebook it’s SO easy to appear fantastically extroverted).  Find out when their regular meetings happen (or get some help in organizing the first one)… and GO.  Just go.  Buy yourself a beer or a gin and tonic, and listen to what people say.  Breathe, talk a little bit, and feel the comraderie that you’re building.

We’re going down this road together.  It won’t always be easy, but I’m pretty damn sure it’ll be worth it.  Or, at least, we’ll get a buzz once a month in public.  Either way: win.

hugs, kisses, and all sorts of other pretty shit,
~charo

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