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September 26, 2007


Terminal Degree

That is tough, isn't it? I'm a former introvert myself. My dad, who was worried that I might never talk willingly, made me join my high school speech team. It was painful, but it worked. He told me that he himself took a Dale Carnegie class to conquer his introvert bent, and his father joined Toastmasters for the same reason. You might consider something like that. (And Toastmasters would provide some networking of its own.)

You do come across quite well in e-mail, so perhaps it might help to write out what you want to say and then PRACTICE it before you pick up a phone. (My dad made me do that, too!)

As a former development employee, what helped me the most was honestly believing that what we were doing was very important. I wasn't asking people to give me money; I was asking people to help out some great kids who needed an education. I was trying to convince people that they were affecting LIVES, not just writing a check. Might that help?

I don't know what kind of department you work in, but does it have a professional organization with monthly meetings or an annual convention? Those are good resources.

My boss used to keep a rolodex of every business card he ever got, and he'd also load all those contacts into Outlook. Every so often, he'd come across an article in the paper and toss it in the mail, jotting a quick note of, "hey great to see you last month. Thought you might find this of interest." He'd also include a business card of his own. Then, when he called a month or so later to ask for a lunch, the recipient would remember him better!

In your position, you might consider (if your field lends itself to this) calling or e-mailing a few contacts who do their jobs very well. Ask if you can take them to lunch and pick their brains on [insert subject]. Ask for advice. Most people love to give it. If anyone has EVER said, "let me know how I can help," take them up on it.

I took the Athletic Director at my university out for coffee one day to ask him how to recruit music students. It was the best investment I made that year! Not only did I get advice, but I got a new friend and a powerful advocate.

And finally, if you force yourself to make ONE contact/call/e-mail a day, it WILL get easier. Start with someone you know well and practice on them. :)

Feel free to e-mail if you want. :)


The idea of me giving advice on how to overcome introversion is ludicrous, but the best way I've found for overcoming my aversion to the telephone -- which is profound -- is *not* practicing. I deliberately call the number with no idea what I'm going to say. So if TD's advice doesn't work out, you could try that. After all, when a person answers at the other end you have to say *something*. But as I say, you're probably better off listening to anybody but me :-)


This conversation is interesting, because I'm realizing that I left out a whole big piece of information. I taught for 11 years, and I'm pretty comfortable speaking in public and doing that kind of thing. What I'm horrible at, just horrible at, is networking and having small talk. I get bored and want to go home. How do I fix that? Sometimes I can find interesting people, but absent the interesting ones, how do I network and do that kind of work without making my head explode?

It's true I hate the telephone, but I'm pretty good at actually calling once I force myself to do it. It's the schmoozing I'm not so sure about...

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