Instead of avoiding the hard stuff, trick yourself into embracing it.
By Natasha Awasthi (Product Manager & Writer)
“Eeek!” or “Yuk!” came to mind when mentors nudged me to network as a way to maintain and boost my professional health. I’m not the only one who’s not a huge fan of schmoozing as evidenced by a study titled The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty.
But when you play in tech, and you live in a city like New York — which is buzzing from it — then it takes more energy to avoid useful events than to attend them.
I’d buy tickets to promising meetups only to skip them for the benefit of cowering at home. Surely, I thought, fantastic opportunities would find me while I slogged my a** off in some dark corner of this universe.
My quiet plan failed.
While I got very sharp at my job, I got dull at everything else. This blinkered approach was unbalanced. Picture this: If you gave one arm a solid work-out and ignored the other. You’d have worked yourself into a strange monster sporting a Popeye-like bicep and a Wimpy Kid-like floppy arm.
Networking wasn’t the only commonsensical best practice I eschewed in the early days of my career. Eventually, I had to resort to mind tricks to get me to do what was good for me. And they worked! Hopefully some of these tricks will work for you, too.
Mind Trick 1: You’re Not Networking, You’re Building a Community
The notion of hustling for a self-serving agenda was deflating. Scouting for inspiring individuals, on the other hand, to riff on ideas with or to nudge each other out of occasional funks was energizing. My sense of responsibility to build and nurture a community pushed me past the awkwardness of mingling with strangers.
Mind Trick 2: You’re Not a Power Monger, You’re a Role Model
I was angling for a lead role in a moonlighting gig. I was offered the opportunity to be the sidekick instead. The digital resume of the dude who got the job revealed that I was just as qualified as him. Yes, I am biased in my evaluation. But this helping of humiliation shifted my worldview for the better.
Until that moment, I had no interest in chasing big titles or haggling for equal pay. I only cared for interesting work and the company of talented people. Now it is also my goal to demand accolades to match my output. I owe it to those who I mentor, and myself to carve out a shiny career pathway.
Mind Trick 3: You’re Not Bragging, You’re Earning Trust
Let’s be honest. The art of bragging without sounding like a douchebag is a curious beast. Still, when was the last time you invested time or money on _______ (substitute blank with any object of your interest) without checking its reviews first?
And, higher the stakes associated with a decision the more time you may have spent researching it. In a similar vein, when forging a new work-related relationship you must consider the act of sharing your glittering track record as a way to ease a colleague’s or client’s anxiety; you are lowering their risk of partnering with you — an unknown entity.
Mind Trick 4: You’re Not Seeking Confrontations, You’re Exploring for Solutions
My pursuit of a perfectly cordial ambiance at work created more tension than peace. My antenna for human feelings would pick up every unhappy sentiment. The emotional static from a conflict distracted me from the one thing that would silence it: resolution.
I’ve come to accept that lapses of harmony are okay, that sometimes the right thing for me to say or do may not be the nice thing for others to hear or bear. Discomfort is even necessary to find creative solutions that tend to dangle outside our comfort zones.
Mind Trick 5: Don’t Get Mad, Get What You Want
Huffing and puffing are cathartic and futile. To win in the face of frustrations, I have to remember to set my ego aside and to focus on what I want. Through this lens, maddening situations appear to be business not personal.
About the guest blogger: Natasha Awasthi is a New York-based product manager and writer. She artfully untangles messy problems by discovering unexpected patterns–in behavior, processes and technology. A self proclaimed Jedi-in-training, she writes, speaks and teaches about channeling the force and embracing creativity. She has a MBA from Wharton. She’s also a data monster. If you press her to prove it, then she may dredge up her master’s degree in statistics — which is buried in a suitcase under a bed at her parent’s home in India, where she is from. Find her on Twitter at @natashaawasthi.