Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Networking, Self-Identity, & Design

My shiny new business cards! Contact info is on the back side.

As an introvert, I constantly have a million thoughts stirring around in my brain, but they rarely make it out of my mouth in the form of coherent sentences. I have extreme difficulty expressing myself if I don't have enough time to mentally prepare what I'm going to say. This is why I hate small talk and why I hate the idea of networking. If I don't mentally prepare for conversation, I ramble on, I'm awkward, and I don't present the best and most comfortable version of myself.

That being said, it was networking and cold-emailing that has landed me the last few jobs that I've had—jobs that are in my career interests and were/are beneficial to my personal growth. Just today, I sent out a couple of emails to network and reach out to some people who would be great resources in the area of science writing. But those were emails, a medium which I am completely comfortable with since I can think and plan before perfectly executing what I want to say. And in this case, meeting them in person won't be too bad, either, since I have time to prepare the questions I want to ask and know what to expect from our conversations.

But another fear I have with networking, is that I have many different hats and many different interests. How do I present myself in a niche area when I also have one hand in another niche area? How do I make sure that I stay true to all of myself while also trying to show off my best self in one given area?

I decided to label four self-identities, different areas in which I hold a niche interest (and all areas in which I have had business-type opportunities in the past, present, and hopefully future), but define a part of who I am as a whole person.
crafty pants. I still haven't managed to reopen my Etsy shop, askLOLA, since moving back to WI, and I haven't really made much time for my creative pursuits. But this hasn't stopped friends from ordering custom projects from me: Halloween pumpkin hats, quilled monograms, graphic design projects, etc. One thing I've always regretted was not having a business card to hand out when someone asks me about a custom project. But simply, I love to create and make things, and I hope that will always be a part of me. 
geeky nerd. I've always been known as a "geek" or a "nerd" and have thankfully never been made fun of for it, but rather embraced for it - at least not that I'm aware of! As little kids on the elementary school playground my friends and I pretended we were characters from TMNT, and my boy friends were cool with the fact that I didn't want to be April, but Raphael. As a high schooler, I'd constantly reference Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Lord of the Rings with my band buddies and quoted Yoda for my senior year quote. Now it's "cool" to be a nerd, and the term has lost it's stereotype and instead become a cultural trend. But I will always be extremely obsessive passionate about the things I like and will always take the opportunity to drop a geeky reference, even when cultural trends change. 
music maker. I've loved music since I was 2 years old and have been making music since I was 4 years old. I've been a piano accompanist, a piano teacher, a wedding singer, a marching band drum major, and more. Now I am in an indie folk rock family band with my husband and siblings, and we are learning how to be songwriters. I had business cards for my piano teaching business, but now that I'm branching outside of just teaching, this self-identification hits all the right notes (*ba-dum-CHING!*). 
truth seeker. This one has a double meaning. I believe in seeking the truth, pursuing the facts, and using reasoning to understand the world. This is why I love science and want to continue working in the science field. I also believe in seeking the Truth, and believe in a story of personal redemption through a man named Jesus. I also believe that science and faith are not mutually exclusive, and one can and should seek the beauty of truth in both cases of the word.
I hope that by highlighting these four identities, I can demonstrate that any one personal or professional interest doesn't define me, but they are all a part of me (*cue Katy Perry song*) and contribute to my one identity.

I designed a business card to be printed and my order came in the mail today. I've always been drawn to a minimalist design, not because I live a clean & simple minimalist lifestyle (Far from it! Just ask my husband.), but because I think it looks classy and smart, while evoking a sense of abstract mystery. I was also told by a friend that if I was a font, I'd be Futura for those same reasons. Finally, I've also always identified with the color red, specifically this darker shade (hex code #99000). By combing all those elements I think I accurately captured a 3.5 by 2 inch cardstock representation of myself. Now I have something to give to anyone who asks for my contact information—whether it's to create something, comment on geek culture, play a piano sonata, or write a science article.

Do you enjoy networking - is it beneficial or not? Do you self-identify with one or with many areas of interest? How do you determine whether to separate your personal and professional identities or not? What would your "business card persona" look like?

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