Being a non-conformist outside the comfort zone

Just the title of this blog post makes me break out into a cold sweat. Well, not really, but conformity and comfort zones have traditionally been my defaults. But, to quote Jerry Seinfeld, “sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” I can think of several examples in my life where this proved to be the case. One experience that comes to mind is when, a few years back, I contracted a condition called adhesive capsulitis (a.k.a. frozen shoulder), with a good deal of pain and restricted mobility that came along with it. After much online research (as I tend to do), it seemed like physical therapy was the way to go to resolve the problem. So off I went to PT, twice a week and a daily home regimen of stretching and strength exercises. My shoulder seemed to be very slowly and gradually improving, but I wanted to see what other options there were, something maybe I could do in conjunction with PT.

04 Jun 2001 --- Swimming against the tide --- Image by (C) K.TiedgeMy research turned up a lot of info about the effectiveness of acupuncture in addressing frozen shoulder. Now mind you, needles have to be my least favorite thing in the world, and I avoid them unless absolutely necessary. So it was with great trepidation and anxiety that I went for a consultation. The acupuncturist talked with me at great length that first visit, and we found a way to minimize my anxiety. After just a few more acupuncture treatments, I was noticing a significant decrease in pain and increase in mobility. When I told others about going my acupuncture experience, I was met with both positive and negative reactions. No judgments on my part, but some people just don’t believe in anything that’s not mainstream or traditional. It seemed pretty clear to me, however, that doing PT alongside acupuncture was accelerating my recovery. Fast forward to today, my shoulder is back to 100%, and even more exciting is the fact that I can swing a tennis racquet with no problem (even though my game is far from 100%)!

Being a nonconformist and taking the road less traveled can pay dividends in other parts of our lives too, including career. Earlier in my professional life, I made a cold call to a company to see what job opportunities were available, which was so out of my out of my comfort zone and so “un-introvertlike”. But I did it anyway. I found a contact number on their web site, assuming it was the HR department’s general number. I got connected to voicemail and left a message, briefly introducing myself, summarizing my background, and what I was looking for in my next job. I received a call back later that same day, and an invitation for an in-person interview. What I found out later was that I had called the Vice President of the company, who forwarded my message to the HR Manager. I had unwittingly bypassed HR and directly contacted a senior-level employee, which eventually led me to my next job.

Today, LinkedIn is one of the primary resources to help facilitate making those higher-level contacts at our target companies. Many job seekers, however, still rely exclusively on online job boards to find their next job. Incorporating some unconventional, bold, and creative approaches can help us gain an advantage in the job search. For example, joining a relevant industry association is an effective, but underutilized, way to make connections and increase knowledge (and hence our marketability) in a given field.

Incorporating creative and “out of the box” approaches, as well as leveraging the power of LinkedIn when conducting a job search is the way to go. As M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, said, “If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything.”

Get your introverted self noticed in 2020

1. Self-promote through writing, the introvert’s preferred means of communication. This might very well include writing your ideas and presenting them after a team meeting/brainstorming session.  But also allow for “face-time” with your manager. This hopefully includes having an open and honest conversation about your innate work style. The goal is to reduce the chance for misperceptions and misunderstandings about the value you bring.

Getting-Noticed_alexsl_226x150

2. Take credit for your work. Resist the urge to credit the “team” for results that you produced exclusively and independently. Be sure to highlight your individual contributions.

3. Prepare for the times when you have to step out of your comfort zone. Doing your research and being well-prepared can help you be more focused and comfortable for that big meeting or presentation you might be dreading, and as a result, come across with much more self-confidence.

Incorporating one or more of these approaches can help you get noticed in 2020, and beyond!

T’is the season to (re)connect

That could mean a holiday card in the mail, a quick phone call, text, email, or LinkedIn message, a coffee chat, or whatever you feel is most appropriate. The important thing, though, is to actually reconnect – the “how” is really secondary. And if we’ve been disconnected a little too long from certain people (we’re talking years), what better time than the holidays to put yourself out there and establish a few new connections!

The Unconventional Networker

It’s never too early to start networking!

Beyond doing the online thing, it’s a good idea to consider some other forms of in-person networking opportunities like volunteering. Volunteering has the triple benefit of making the world a better place, helping us gain perspective on our own personal situations, and putting ourselves in a position to interact and establish connections. Actually, any situation where we can interact with others is a networking opportunity: working out at the gym, going food shopping, hanging out at the local coffee shop, joining a meetup, the list goes on and on. Also keep in mind that some approaches may be a better fit than others, depending on where we fall on the introvert-extrovert continuum.

So yes, definitely check out local in-person networking events but also throw in some  unconventional and creative things into the mix. A combination of both approaches may just produce the best results!

“Black shopping basket, please.”

Now this is an idea I can get behind. There’s a Sephora store in Europe (specific location unknown) that started using color-coded shopping baskets for those who want a salesperson to approach/assist them…and for those who don’t. I almost always fall into the latter camp, and would be reaching for the black shopping basket.

Now if this idea could make its way to the US, and at stores that I actually shop in, then I’d be really excited, especially with the holiday shopping season almost upon us. But it’s a start! A dream come true, at least for this introvert!

shoppingbaskets

 

Hey, What About Me?

I’m more than happy to help my fellow networkers however I can – when it’s a 2-way street. Good karma is alive and well when it comes to effective networking! It requires a certain mindset as well. Effective networking is not really about finding our next job, but making meaningful connections and establishing mutually beneficial professional relationships.

One size does not fit all – ask any introvert

I saw an article online recently with the headline, “How to Overcome Being an Introvert”. Overcome?! Really? This is exactly the kind of attitude that perpetuates misunderstanding and confusion. I don’t see it as something I need, or want to fix. And even if I wanted to, trying to reverse something hard-wired into my brain is most likely impossible anyway.

Hammer and Qubes4no textLet’s face it – we introverts face certain challenges. In Susan Cain’s article, The Rise of the New Groupthink, she discusses how introverts tend to be very creative thinkers, but face a serious challenge in a culture that constantly emphasizes group activity and teamwork in the workplace. She goes on to explain that introverts welcome collaboration, but need sufficient alone-time to gather our thoughts and formulate ideas to then bring them to the group for discussion. Cain cites Apple Computer’s Steve Wozniak, an example of a famous introvert, as someone who fits this mold and whose greatest ideas were developed solo. And we all know how well that turned out!

In the end, both introverts and extroverts are capable of bringing value to the workplace, but that it’s critical we understand each other’s work style and accept the fact that one size does not fit all. And this is one time where there is (or ought to be) an “I” in “Team”.

– JR