Our most recent guest for Parker Live!, Melissa Mosher of Support Savvy, has an extensive network and many relationships within the administrative, gaming, and virtual event-production communities. That doesn’t mean that this all comes easy for her. “Before I had always thought of myself as a people-person with anxiety,” she says. “But with the shift in the world, I’ve realized I’m actually an introvert with people-problems.” So how does a people-shy introvert go from being an important voice in the administrative community to stepping away from all that she has known to launch her own venture? For Melissa, the key was to worry less about connecting with other people and more about connecting with herself.
Before I had always thought of myself as a people-person with anxiety, but with the shift in the world I’ve realized I’m actually an introvert with people-problems
Discovering that she was an introvert has taught her that a person can’t just find a community until they are able to connect with themselves. “People use groups almost like dating,” she quips. She elaborates that they go from Facebook groups to LinkedIn networks hoping they can find one that will connect with them, when in reality these platforms are just tools. Instead, she wants individuals to recognize that when they connect with themselves, they’ve created their own community. The goal then shifts from finding a community to connecting your community to others. It’s an approach that is less about shouting into the void and hoping someone responds and more about shepherding your goals and deciding if a particular community is the right one for you.
Once you have found a community, there are a number of ways to begin engaging with it. One method that Melissa advocates is passive engagement. In it, you are reading what people have to say and instead of engaging with the original author, who may never read it if it is a popular discussion or if their only concern is to sell something, you engage with a fellow commenter. By doing so, you connect with them directly and create the equivalent of a conversation between two attendees at a conference discussing the speaker (as opposed to trying to engage the speaker directly while they are being mobbed afterwards).
Never take advice from people who would never take yours.
In-person networking can be a very useful skill in building your community or professional network, but it may be a fraught experience for many. Melissa recommends one to one networking, such as meeting for coffee. “If you aren’t comfortable selling, then don’t sell,” she advises. Instead, spend the time just learning about the other person. Be intentional and go beyond the tactical questions such as “what do you do for a living?” that you can easily find with a Google search. Instead, try to ask questions that will tell you something more insightful about them. Don’t worry about talking about yourself. Take the time to practice how to learn about someone else. However, Melissa cautions, “never take advice from people who would never take yours.”
Finally, as you build your community and networking skills, Melissa advises people to be wary of over-stretching themselves – you don’t need 100 best friends! The danger of engaging deeply with too many people is that they will either all tell you the same thing and not offer you any differing opinions, or their opinions will be so different that you’ll always get contrary information – a kind of networking version of analysis-paralysis. A good place to start is always going to be your own community, even if to start it is only a community of one.