October 10, 2017
As an introvert AVP, I’ve come to realize that it’s the beginning of the year where I find myself always questioning why it is I do what I do. It’s always the first couple of months of the academic year that are the toughest for me. The first couple of months entails you having to meet hundreds if not thousands of new students, faculty, and staff; needing to be visible at various beginning of the year events; and being asked to speak at various campus functions to welcome individuals to the university. In addition, as a member of an AVP team, it is important to me that I support my colleagues at their events so that they understand they are not alone in their work.
As you know, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is where you draw your energy from. Introverts recharge by being alone and other people deplete their energy. Extroverts gain energy by being around people.
In this role, I rely on three simple notions to help me get through the beginning of the year.
Turn it on when you need to
As Susan Cain states in her book Quiet, “Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.” (pg. 209). I value the opportunities that the AVP role affords me and value the opportunities that it gives me to interact with students that have similar first generation experiences to mine. This means that I always make sure to accept as many speaking opportunities as I can at the beginning of the year. In my speeches, I make sure to outline my introversion and to open that door for those in the audience that may also be introverted to come visit me. I also utilize these opportunities to meet as many people as I can. This enables me to have a reference point of contact with those in the audience which eliminates the need for the always awkward small talk that happens when it is the very first time meeting someone. Those in the audience can now see me on campus and say they heard me speak and we instantly have an experience in common.
Utilize your extroverted colleagues
While you are an introvert, you have a lot of colleagues who are not. I often make sure to either bring or stand by one of my more extroverted colleagues at events at the beginning of the year. These colleagues know my introverted nature and are more than willing to utilize their extroversion to help facilitate my introduction into conversations or to provide me opportunities to step away when they feel my energy begin to ebb.
Own your introversion and step away
When I talk to students who identify themselves as introverts, I always encourage them to own their introversion. What I mean by this is for them to always be true to who they are as introverts. This isn’t the notion that they should use their introversion as a scape goat, but that they should be honest and open with others about their need to find opportunities to reenergize through purposefully having alone time. During the heightened energy time of the first month, I make sure to schedule time for me to work in the office, intentionally will step away from an event for a few minutes, or find an evening or two where I make sure to just spend time with my immediate family. This approach enables me to keep my energy up and not begin to dread the back to back events that often happen at the beginning of a school year.
As the semester rolls on and the first couple of months are over, events slow down, and the campus gets into the rhythm of the academic year. I then begin the process of building real relationships and partnerships with individuals that I meet attending and speaking at events and welcoming people to the University. Every year, I feel the apprehension of what the start of the year brings and then I remind myself to turn it on when I need to, utilize my extroverted colleagues and own my introversion and step away. These methods have worked for me year after year, and I hope that they work for you as well.
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