Have you ever attended a function where you felt so out of place that it was as if you had your thumb stuck up your nose, and people were pretending not to notice? Yeah, we’ve all been there. And when you’re in transition, trying to meet new people and find a new path, it feels like you’re standing around with your finger up your nose a lot. Uncomfortable, a little stupid looking, and definitely out of place.
This is exactly why networking is so challenging. So why do we constantly say to people looking to change their work, you should network, there’s nothing to it. Really? If that were true, then people wouldn’t be writing endless blogs (oops, I’m part of the mass hysteria, no?) about it. Let’s face it, it’s just plain awkward to have your thumb up your nose.
I attended a conference with a whole new group of professionals a couple of weeks ago, and those itchy feelings came flooding back. I didn’t know anyone, the group and their issues were new to me, and some days I asked myself what in the world was I doing there.
But I persisted. In fact, I gave a short presentation, one of those round-robin things where people switch tables every twenty minutes (they called it a “speed learning” event) – and it was a smash hit. Who’d ‘ve thunk? And that gave me the courage to press on.
I still found it difficult to strike up conversations, but each one became easier. By the last day, I ended up in a great conversation with a table of people who were incredibly friendly, informative, and started making me feel comfortable. And wouldn’t you know, I was approached to consider giving a keynote speech next year at their conference. I was dumbfounded.
It just goes to show that every move you make, even when you feel twitchy and discombobulated, can lead to a great next step. I had no expectations for this event. I wanted to make a good impression and learn about the group. But to be considered for a keynote address? I never guessed it was possible.
So keep the faith. Don’t worry about your thumb up your nose. It manages to loosen up eventually. And it doesn’t matter how old, how experienced, how “professional” you think you are. The recurring syndrome of thumb up your nose is bound to happen. It’s just a sign that you’re growing. They don’t call them “growing pains” for nothing. It’s part of the territory. So polish off your thumb, and just be grateful you don’t have a string hanging off the corner of your mouth with a drop of drool.