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Frances Peck

Introverted Networking: Not an Oxymoron

The best party I ever went to was in 1993. I was dating a drummer, and his band mates had invited us to an indoor beach party, their chance to meet the new girlfriend. I was beyond nervous.

When the front door opened, we stepped into a gyrating, thumping mass of arms, legs and beer. There was sand on the floor, a fake palm tree in the corner. It was hard to move. My date bent close. “Had enough?” he asked. I nodded, he took my elbow and we left.

I spent the next decade with that guy. He got it: I’m an introvert.

Many editors are. That doesn’t mean we’re antisocial, or even necessarily shy. We simply get our energy from being on our own and looking inward, unlike extroverts, who rev up by interacting with others. In a society that favours the outgoing team player, says author Susan Cain, it’s important to remember that introverts offer different strengths. Cain’s message has kept her book Quiet on the New York Times bestseller list for over three years and has earned her TED talk more than 12 million views.

Introversion is a terrific quality for editors. It keeps us at our desks, on the page, enjoying our mostly quiet, solitary work. But where does that leave the freelancer, who needs to network to land contracts? Or the in-house editor, who has to mingle with colleagues and survive meetings and conferences?

The first step is to recognize you’re an introvert. (Not sure? Take the quiz on Cain’s website.) The next is to accept that you’ll never be comfortable working the room, shaking hands and making small talk with strangers. Inward-lookers need a different approach.

Start with your people. Join Editors Canada or another editing group, go to meetings and conferences, volunteer. You’ll meet other introverts, and you’ll all be grateful to have someone like-minded to talk to.

Virtual interaction counts too. Discussion forums and social media are low-pressure ways to “meet” and learn from others. Look at the tweets on networking I gathered from a recent Editors Canada Twitter chat — without leaving the haven of my office.

  • Sue Archer: Think about it first as an opportunity to help others and share what you know well — I like the motto “Give give get.”
  • Anne Louise Mahoney: I look for someone standing by themselves — they are usually happy to strike up a conversation.
  • Suzanne Purkis: Breathe. Choose events that appeal to your strengths. Plan your exit. And bring a buddy.
  • Marion Soublière: Before going to an in-person event (like a MeetUp), email/tweet attendees to say it’s your first time there and say you look forward to meeting folks. It breaks the ice online first & people see your photo via email/Twitter.
  • Tanya Trusler: Get out there and mingle at meetings/confs. You’ll soon realize we editors can easily relate to one another! And it’s even easier in pairs for most of us.

Don’t limit yourself to editing and publishing events. Paul Cipywnyk, in a post on combatting freelance isolation, reminds us that “getting involved with other groups can open up all sorts of different worlds.”

Beth Macfie, who gives presentations on networking and who spoke with me for this article, offers three-part advice: do Amy Cuddy’s power pose before you enter the room, think of something that makes you happy (you’ll relax and genuinely smile) and remember your goals for the event so you can enter the room with purpose. Don’t overlook the people you already know, she adds: “When you’re chatting with them, let family, friends, neighbours, fellow club members and workmates know about what you offer and what you’re looking for.”

Need more reassurance? Check out the priceless networking tips from Sue Archer and Erin Brenner.

As for me, since I began freelancing (three years before that memorable beach party), the only way I’ve coped with networking is to think of it as learning about others rather than promoting myself. When I meet people, I ask questions, I listen, I learn what their passions are. For me, that’s easier than talking about myself. I’ve found that people remember you if you’ve shown a true interest in them and the subjects that inspire them.

The upshot: think of networking not as selling yourself to dozens of people — that’s the extroverted approach. Think of it as making a genuine connection with one person, then another, then another.

How have you handled networking in your career? Any pointers to share?

Note: All the advice in this post comes courtesy of my own editing network — people I’ve met in the flesh or through social media.


Previous post from Frances Peck: What’s That There, Then? More Cape Breton English.

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10 Comments on “Introverted Networking: Not an Oxymoron”

  • Robin


    Frances: I like the comment about trying to learn about others versus trying to sell yourself. I’ve always struggled with trying to sell myself–but we’re always told to, right? Instead, I’m going to try your approach.

    • frances peck


      Commenting on blog posts counts as networking, so you’ve already begun. Easy, right?

  • Anita Jenkins


    «When I meet people, I ask questions, I listen, I learn what their passions are. For me, that’s easier than talking about myself. I’ve found that people remember you if you’ve shown a true interest in them and the subjects that inspire them.»

    Excellent tip. As an extrovert, or semi-extrovert, I find that I do this without thinking about it. Extroverts tend to be naturally interested in other people.

    Terrific article, Frances. My heart leaps up when I see your name on the byline.

    • Anita Jenkins


      I didn’t mean to imply in the above post that introverts are not interested in people – well, maybe some are not! But I guess they need to tell themselves to ask questions and extroverts do it without thinking about it.

    • frances peck


      Extroverts, it would seem, are lavish with compliments too! Anita, I bet you worked the room in diapers.

  • Anne Brennan


    Excellent article, Frances.

    I once watched an extrovert friend at a product launch press event. She walked up to people who were standing alone, put out her hand, and talked to them. When I remarked that I didn’t know how she did it, she said, «I just imagine that I’m the host and it’s my job to put them at ease.» I’ve used that strategy ever since, because it’s brilliant. It works. It keeps me from focusing on how I’m feeling, and lets me connect to someone I might not have met otherwise.


    • Frances Peck


      Fabulous tip, and just in time for the holidays. Much better than ducking the party.

  • Elizabeth d'Anjou


    When the great Editors Canada stalwart Riça Night retired her seminar on starting out as a freelancer and I started up mine, she shared a lot of great information for me to pass on. One of the best pieces was her definition of networking:
    1. Meet some people.
    2. Tell them what you do.
    3. Listen to them.
    That’s really all.
    And it really works!


    • Anita Jenkins


      Or as I like to put it, «Get out of your house.» This necessitates not wearing pjs all day, however. Or at least I think it does.

  • Rosemary Shipton


    Some years ago a friend told me that he found editors very generous. In contrast to his own profession, design, where people competed with others for projects and tried to build their own empires, editors shared jobs that were too big for them alone or recommended other editors they respected when they were simply too busy to take on another offer. So, in addition to Frances’s fine essay and all the good points made in the comments, I’d like to add that networking is also part of the way editors operate as a profession. By definition we’re a helpful group, working hard to make authors’ books or articles as good as they can be. And that helpfulness extends to finding a good replacement when we can’t do the project ourselves.

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