Being a loner and a standoffish type of person has held me back in my life. Early on, I didn’t understand my introverted personality, and I just believed that I didn’t fit in or belong. This caused me to move around with a chip on my shoulder, and I did not allow people to get to know me. As a child I grew up wanting to be loud, seen, and heard. As an adult, when my true personality came to light, I realized that wasn’t who I was at all. This explains why I never fit in with the “loud and rowdy crew “. Although I would run with them and try my best to fit in, it was always something about my natural personality that kept me different from them.
Being a young stylist in a time when networking and interacting with other fellow stylists was essential (and it still is), my introverted, standoffish ways have hindered me and stifled my growth. When I should have been out networking and getting to know others by participating in hair and fashion shows, rather than just standing behind the chair, I was too comfortable being introverted. In all things we must find balance. While it was one thing to not fit in with the rowdy crowd as an introvert, it was a whole other thing to not engage in opportunities that would enhance my career.
I found that I am the type of person who literally draws my strength from my quiet, alone time. After a long day of work and serving clients, nothing replenishes me more than settling down into my alone time. Symbolic of my natural personality, I located my bedroom in the basement of my home, so I could be by myself and away from everyone else. The bottom line is that I enjoy being alone, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is characteristic of an introvert, and if you operate in a similar manner, you may be one, too.
Nevertheless, there was a problem with allowing my introverted ways to dominate my personality. You see, I have a voice and platform that others draw personal strength from, and I always want to connect to the people I impact and those who impact me. To be successful, it is very important to connect with others. I’m not just in the business to do hair, but I am also here to spread my wings and teach others to do what I do. With that being the case, I needed to get to know my fellow stylist and relate to the experiences of others. I needed to participate in the opportunities that would connect me to others and help me advance my career. Despite my introversion, I was very fortunate to be able to build a clientele that supported me and believed in me. As a young stylist, I didn’t appear as inviting and interactive as I have learned to be later in my career. Up until this very day, I still don’t personally know as many stylists as one would think for someone who has been in the business for 25 years. Thanks to social media platforms, I have been able to make up for some of the lost traction, and finally network with others from all over the United States. Accepting friend requests in Facebook and adding to my contact list is not enough. It’s a start–but there’s nothing that will take the place of truly getting out there and interacting and networking.
If you are naturally introverted like I am but you still want to use your voice and gifts, then break out from that comfort zone. Don’t delay; it is imperative that you start today. While others may see your introverted personality as cold and distant, it is your responsibility to show them what you want them to see. It is your responsibility to get out there and connect to further your career. Don’t hide behind your voice because you are comfortable there; use your voice and you may be surprised at how so many of the right people will cross your path.
I refuse to focus anymore time thinking about my introversion and its negative impact on my personal growth. Now I know the importance of networking to my bottom line. Do what I did–get out of your own way and simply get to know people. Something as small as a conversation in the grocery store line, a compliment to a stranger, or even signing up for seminars and professional groups that pique your interest is a great way to start engaging with others when it doesn’t come easy for you. This alone can create a wealth of networking opportunities that can assist you in going very far in your career.
Networking with others does not always have to be directly related to your field or occupation. I am a member of a club that has absolutely nothing to do with hair, but it allows me the opportunity to exchange ideas and information with some very influential people. It’s not always about enhancing your career from a direct standpoint but could simply involve developing your overall people skills and the ability to engage comfortably with others. No matter what, the idea is to put you in a position to grow and expose yourself to others that you may assist in some way or that may be of assistance to you. You would be amazed at how the doors of opportunity open up when you show up at the right place and talk to the right person at the right time.
I still do a lot of things alone such as travel, movies, dining, etc. but now I intentionally strike up conversations to make sure I am connecting with people and staying open to the possibility that one conversation could make all the difference in my life or someone else’s life. One conversation could also dramatically change a window of opportunity for financial or personal growth.
If you are struggling with that first step or maybe just furthering your steps in networking and interacting with others, here are a few things that I personally do to create those opportunities for myself:
- I am a member of my local International Toastmasters Club. This is an organization that is a world leader in communication and leadership development. It is set up in a fun club environment that forces you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to participate. Because it is an international club, it reaches people from all walks of life that want to grow their leadership, communications, mentoring, and teamwork skills. Most clubs meet twice a month. For more information, go to https://www.toastmasters.org/.
- Once a month or more, I go to or participate in some form of business networking, webinar, or social networking group that directly relates to my career. I make a point to get involved. This could be a hair show, seminar, or a private cosmetologist group. With these venues I learn new technologies and innovations related to the hair industry.
- Finally, I have recently become a blogger as a way of giving back and being more interactive with others while creating a space to connect to more people. This also is a form of networking.
These are just a few things that I do to force me to come out of my comfortable, natural introverted personality and be interactive. As I grow my network, I continue to expand the ways I participate in that growth. I am now a blogger, I will soon be author and speaker–all as a result of stepping out of my own way and developing a network to help me get from where I used to be to where I am heading.