I think it’s safe to say that the web working lifestyle — being able to work in the comfort and tranquility of our own inviolate little worlds — is an introvert’s dream come true.
But not all web workers fit that mold, to be sure. In fact, some people hesitate to make the leap to web working because they’re concerned about being isolated. No matter what your personality type, one thing is true for all of us: Every now and then we have to get out and get some human interaction, for our mental health as well as that of our careers. Holing up at home is not the best way to further your professional goals, get new clients, or find partners (of any variety). At any time, but especially in our current economic climate, having a substantial professional network can mean more security for the web worker.
When I first started web working, I had moved to a new city in a foreign country where I had no local contacts, either social or professional, other than my husband. After a while, I needed to make a serious effort to get an offline life and become a participant in my professional community. So I chose a tech mixer that I’d read about on a blog for my debutante moment. I even bought a new shirt. And I can’t tell you how glad I am that I went.
That evening I met a lot of people. (I was on a mission, after all.) Some I’ve written about, some I’ve worked with, and others are just fun to hang out with. That night, I discovered a coworking center, which is also a meeting hub for all kinds of tech professional groups and events (I now subscribe to the center’s events feed), and I learned about (and consequently joined) a local group for women in tech. Since this one event, my network has grown considerably.
I recently started attending Paris Open Coffee Club meetings, which are held every Thursday morning (above). There are Open Coffee Clubs all over the world, from Boulder, Colo., to Chennai, India. And even though this group is generally for entrepreneurs, it’s a pleasant, coworking environment with a techie crowd. There’s always a chance somebody could be looking for the skills you have, or that you’ll meet people who share your interests, so don’t hesitate to branch out into areas other than your nearest extreme programming club…
In addition to joining groups, consider volunteering. Some volunteer work I did recently led to two speaking engagements, one of which will be at the upcoming Society for Technical Communication – France annual conference in March. The conference theme is “Connecting Communities,”“Creating Communities,” and it’s open to anyone: STC members and non-members from anywhere in the world. I’ll be there, talking about online identity and the Wizard of Oz (really), so if you’re a web worker in the Paris area and you need to get out of the house, or if you want an excuse to come to Paris, this might be just the thing for you.
If you’re thinking of becoming a web worker, my advice is not to worry about being isolated from other people, at least if you live in a reasonably large city. You can pick and choose the groups you want to be part of and adjust your extracurricular activity load to suit your needs. If you are an extreme introvert, just buy a new shirt and go for it. You won’t be sorry!
Web workers: What groups do you belong to? How has participating in them has helped you as a web worker?