How social distancing has helped me get better at networking

My name is Sydney and I'm an introvert. Seriously.

I know that's hard to believe for some who've engaged me in a conversation about something I feel passionate about and I can't stop talking, but it's true. I'm the text-book description of an INFJ.

Had I been more self-aware at the time, I would have chosen a career path that was better suited for my temperament, but I didn't, so I've had to do my best make it work. It has, for the most part, but not without a great amount of energy and anxiety behind the curtain.

It took me a few weeks to work through the shock of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the sudden switch to working full-time from home. All that happened at the same time I realized that a long-term relationship was coming to an end, so those first few weeks were difficult, but I survived.

I'd worked remotely before, but two things were different this time - in recent years my job has evolved to include increasingly more meetings, both with colleagues and with people I didn't know. And then, of course, there's Zoom.

Zoom fatigue is real, but for introverts it's much more than that. A popular online community for introverts posted a great explanation in a recent article entitled 5 Reasons Zoom Calls Are an Introvert's Nightmare.

Nonetheless, because of COVID-19 and the social distancing it requires, Zoom and similar video chat platforms are the only way we have to communicate with our team mates, colleagues, clients/members, and prospects, so I had to put on my BGPs (big girl panties) and do my best to get over my anxiety.

Fast forward from virtually Zero zoom meetings (webinars don't count) two months ago to my new routine:

  • Staff meetings for 3 times a week (it used to be every day)

  • Daily check-in meetings with a member on my team

  • A weekly project meeting with 30+ colleagues in my national organization from across the country to work on a major project

  • A weekly meeting with other alumni and new fellows from a leadership development academy I participated in a few years ago

  • Bi-weekly meetings with a small group of women from different disciplines who talk about issues in our field, as well as discussing various soft skills to help us grow both professional and personally (this one is my favorite!)

  • Frequent meetings with prospective members and/or collaborators on new initiatives

  • Last minute stand-ins when my CEO has a sudden scheduling conflict

  • and more... and more... and more.

What I've noticed after a few months of my new routine is that my anxiety is significantly reduced, I'm not the only one dealing with this "new normal", it's a lot easier and less time-consuming than having to travel to someone's office to meet in person, and I'm actually much more comfortable talking to people that I don't know.

It's also helped me personally. I hated video chatting so much that despite years of her asking, I refused to video chat with one of my closest long-time friends. When we actually "saw" each other for the first time in 10 years or so, we both broke out in tears of joy. How could I have avoided this simple pleasure for so long? That's the power that our fears and anxieties have on us when we allow them to. Lesson learned.

And... my mother, who'd never done a video chat, and my adult daughter who chats with her friends by video on her phone all the time, now have regularly scheduled "Girls' Chats" at 5:00 every Thursday evening. Pretty cool!

I know first-hand that getting comfortable with video chats as a professional and personal engagement tool is new to many of us more "mature" adults, but it does have it's benefits. If you haven't done so already, I challenge you to give it a try. You just might like it!

Living our best lives,