“The Chamber?  Isn’t that just a networking group?”

Well, first of all, no, it’s not “just” a networking group.  We create a supportive community for small business owners interested in becoming business leaders, learning and promoting their business.  We offer digital and “in real life” products and services to make that happen.

Today I wonder whether those who dismiss the Chamber as “just networking” belong to that fifty percent of the population that simply disdains networking.  That’s right, introverts: I’m talking to you.

Introverts expend energy when surrounded by people and need time to recharge alone.  Extroverts, on the other hand, generate energy in social situations while private time zaps them.  Networking, or working a room full of people with the intent of building professional relationships, is hard work for an introvert but play for an extrovert.

An introvert myself, I have to push myself to go to events with more than a handful of people.  For those who counter with, “You’re not shy!” I can only say that shyness has nothing to do with it.  I’m confident and I like people – I just need to work harder when I am among more than a few of them at once.

As I prepared to attend my first Rotary International Convention, I was anxious, like right before going to the dentist.  Despite believing wholeheartedly in this organization and looking forward to a myriad of professional development opportunities, all I could think about was All. Those. People.  Tens of thousands.  The more colleagues declared that I would make “so many connections,” the more I wanted to crawl into a cave and skip it entirely.

Now that I’m here, I’m managing.  Okay, really enjoying it. I’m limiting time spent in crowds and focusing on individuals.  I’m taking breaks. I’m smiling, grabbing brochures and scurrying back to my room to read them. If I only meet a few people, but really connect, that’s fine.

So to those of you who turn away from the Chamber because you are uncomfortable networking, give me a call.  I can relate – but I assure you getting to know us is worth the extra energy.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...