If we’ve met in-person you’ll probably be surprised at what I’m going to write next. Here it is:

I hate networking!

How could that be true? I’m bubbly, the life and soul of the party, always smiling, always laughing, full of energy, engaging, and love a chat … but that’s with people I know, or in situations where I feel comfortable – like in the classroom.

In new scenarios, involving people I don’t know, or don’t know well, I get anxious – especially when I’m walking in alone. In advance of the event, my internal monologue is something like this:

Will anyone talk to me or will I be left standing alone? Will I find things to say and contribute? Will I run out of things to say and face the dreaded silence? What if everyone is all grouped up and in the middle of conversations when I arrive? Which group will I join? Will they look at me strangely when I try to join in? If I do chime in, will they find me interesting or will they be looking for more exciting people to talk to? Will they all know each other and look at me as the interloper? What if they’re unwelcoming?

I was on a cruise last year and almost didn’t go to the Captain’s meet & greet because we were new to the cruise and didn’t know anyone and I knew I would have to make small talk with strangers. My husband had to insist, and remind me that we could always talk to each other, if we couldn’t make friends.

I’m that person who signs up for events determined, in the moment of signing up, to attend. And I won’t tell you how many I didn’t show up to in 2017 because I chickened out at the last minute.

Now I do realise that not turning up to the events is counterintuitive. People will forever remain strangers, and I will always be walking into events not knowing anyone – unless I go to events and get to know people!

And ultimately when I do attend, it’s all fine. I enjoy myself and none of the things I worry about come to fruition. So there’s no basis for my anxiety and it’s not that I don’t know how to network. It’s just all in my mind.

I am determined that 2018 will be the year I beat it. I’m not making an annual resolution here, because I just know I will end up procrastinating until November or December and rushing to get it done, or not getting it done at all. So I need a  shorter time horizon and a concrete plan, like this:

In the first quarter of the year I will attend at least 3 networking events. After the first quarter, I will increase the goal number of events for each quarter by one, to the end of the year. So in the last quarter of the year I will need to attend 6 networking events!

And you can help. Firstly, by reading this – you’re a witness to help keep me honest and on track. And secondly – please invite me to things (and smile at me when I show up – maybe even give me a gold star).