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The perks of being a wallflower: Networking solo

main.jpgI moved to the Twin Cities a little over a year ago to be closer to my (then) shiny new job, to be able to make more friends and live the exciting life in the Big City. I had a huge list of all the things I was going to see and do once I moved into my new apartment in Minneapolis: I was going to try all the awesome restaurants! I was going to visit all the museums! I was going to be a regular in downtown!

...Except I’m super shy and sort of terrified of going to new places by myself. I didn’t have any friends that lived in the Cities, so if I wanted to go anywhere I’d have to go alone, or wait for a friend to be available to drive and see me. What’s an introvert to do?

Enter the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of the Twin Cities.

At the encouragement of my then boss, I attended a couple of events YNPN-TC was holding. My first event was Networking Bingo at a bar downtown. I ended up arriving way too early because it took MUCH less time to get there than I thought it would, so I awkwardly hung out by myself for a while, sipping my drink and trying to act like I didn’t feel as completely out of place as I felt, all the while debating in my head if I should just leave. I felt painfully awkward for being there by myself.

Just when I was about to either leave or go hide in a bathroom for awhile, one of the board members at the time, Jenna, came over and started chatting with me. In my head all I could think was, OMG-Thank-You-Now-I’m-Not-That-Awkward-Girl-Creeping-In-The-Corner-Who-Came-Too-Early-And-Doesnt-Know-Anyone.

Jenna was friendly and seemed genuinely excited I was at the event to get my first taste of YNPN-TC. She encouraged me to jump into conversations with other members to start meeting some other people. She assured me everyone was super nice and fun - and she was right. I kept coming back to events, each time meeting a few more cool new people, and it felt less and less awkward to be at events. I also dived into volunteering with the group pretty quickly after Bingo.

So what’s the point about how I got started with YNPN-TC and sharing how embarrassingly shy I can be? I can’t say going to events was a magical cure for that. I still haven’t seen and done as much in the Twin Cities as I’d like. However, being part of YNPN-TC has opened the door to not only get tons of free (or insanely cheap) professional development experiences, but also to meet new people and check out tons of great places I’ve been dying to see (but haven’t wanted to go to by myself). Here are some past events to give you a glimpse:

YNPN’s Night at the Guthrie Theater - Not only did YNPN-TC members get to see Clybourne Park at the Guthrie for an insanely cheap price ($10!!), but it was before the play was officially open to the public, AND there was an after party with a free drink ticket, attended by the cast of the play. Seriously, so cool.

A Networking Recess at the Public Functionary - The Public Functionary is an amazing art gallery that recently opened up in North Minneapolis and generously let YNPN-TC use their beautiful space for a networking event. This event was not only cool because of the space, but also the theme of the night led to some very fun connections.

There was also an event at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts put on by Paper Darts (whose executive director is also a YNPN board member) where you got to ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ throughout the museum. I went with a few YNPN-TC members, and also ran into a bunch of YNPNers there. Not only did I get to attend cool events as part of YNPN-TC, but I made a bunch of friends that would go to other awesome events with me.

Next thing I get to cross off my list: check out Moto-i on Lyndale Ave. I’ve heard such good things but haven’t been able to stop by yet. Lucky for me, YNPN-TC is having their next event there on July 24th! They’re having an amazing speaker talk about Breaking Rules with Integrity. It sounds like it will be a pretty great discussion (and really yummy food).

I could go on and on about the events I’ve attended and people I’ve met, but I think you get the point.

If you’ve been feeling like it would be too painfully awkward to check out a YNPN-TC event by yourself, don’t fret: I’ve been there before, and it’s so worth it. I promise, it’s a great time with lots of great people. Many people at the event will have been in your shoes (or maybe still are), but everyone is super friendly and ready to welcome you into the group. Even better, YNPN-TC has been working hard to make sure people feel more welcome than ever before. Don't forget our tips on networking as an introvert and how to get the most out of your networking. Plus, I’ll be there saying hi to those who look like they’re in need of an ‘awkward diffuser.’ I hope to see you at a future event!

What's stopping you from taking that leap into an unknown activity?

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