When you work in the staffing industry, you end up meeting a lot of people. Networking events and happy hours are a standard part of the workweek, and your wallet or purse becomes a treasure trove of business cards. If we’ve met, you’d assume that these events are where I shine. I’m pretty personable, engaging in conversation, and usually have a joke or two ready to tell. You might think that this is my favorite part of my job.
You would be wrong.
I’m what is known as an “extroverted introvert.” This means that while being around, some people can recharge me, but of the time, it drains me. I’m also a high-functioning individual, so while I might be exhausted by networking, I do it all with a smile. Being in a room full of strangers without a peer by my side makes me feel incredibly insecure and awkward. I am not the type to “work the room” or start a conversation with someone I don’t know. Even writing about this scenario is giving me slight anxiety.
So, you can imagine how I was feeling when I attended the Bullhorn Engage conference all by myself. While I was excited to learn from industry experts and explore new features of the Applicant Tracking System, I was also wholly dreading the various networking events sprinkled throughout the schedule.
Just be cool, I thought. Hang out by the food and help clean up if you don’t have anyone to talk to.
Suddenly, my nightmare scenario was happening. I was at a Happy Hour event all by myself, drink in hand, the purse around my shoulders, just wandering aimlessly through a room full of people who all seemed to know each other.
Just finish this drink and go home.
That’s when I caught eyes with a stranger. He was an older gentleman with an English accent and was waving me over to a group of people.
Me? I responded. He probably thinks I’m a cocktail waitress.
“Yes! Come over here!” I hesitantly walked over to him and a couple of female coworkers. “Are you here with anyone?”
“No, actually, I came to Engage by myself,” I said timidly.
“Well, you’re not by yourself anymore. You’re with us now! My name is Simon. This is Courtney and Sadie.” We exchanged pleasantries, and just before Simon walked away, he said, “I couldn’t help it. I saw you standing there by yourself, and at first, I thought you were waiting for someone, and then I realized that you had come here all by yourself. That’s a powerful thing to do! You’re welcome to hang out with us as much as you want.”
This small act of kindness made a significant impact on me. First, I had an absolute blast with my new friends, who were gracious enough to include me in all their conversations and introduce me to more professionals. Second, I could tell that Simon was a successful person from his ability to read people. It turns out he is! I later found out that he is the CEO at CloudCall. His colleagues confirmed that he had an excellent eye for talent. Third, it reminded me how powerful it is when you make someone feel SEEN. Being at a conference without any companions or coworkers made me feel invisible at times. The kind gesture of inclusion was empowering and recharged me. The rest of the weekend, I felt focused, eager to learn, and ready to bring back all this knowledge to my AP Team. This last revelation, however, was bittersweet. It made me realize that there were probably so many other people there by themselves, feeling insecure and not having anyone to talk to. I didn’t do anything to include those people because I was in my head about my own insecurities. I know better now.
Big things can come from feeling included. It made me feel comfortable enough to let loose and play the absolute best round of Skee Ball of my LIFE (take that, Charles Levesque!), and it also created a great relationship with CloudCall. Once our company grows and it makes sense for our business to integrate a unified communications tool, they’ll be the first company I call.
So, what will I take from this experience? While I at least have the appearance of an extrovert, many introverts don’t have that luxury. They look as uncomfortable as they feel. Seek them out. Introverts have a lot to offer and rarely a platform to express themselves. Sometimes, we need a little nudge to join a group. I know I did.