By: Sarah Alisabeth Michael Jane Humphrey

To my fellow introverts,

Chances are good that your heart rate quickens when people tell you to “get out there,” “start networking,” and “make connections.”  I’m right there with you.

As young professionals in the Louisville area, we regularly witness the “small” side of Derby City through its unique interconnectedness.  Within minutes of making a new acquaintance, we solve the six degrees of separation game (and probably within three steps).  Yet for those of us with a more introverted constitution, the city’s oceanic business culture can sometimes inspire, overwhelm, and give the sensation of drowning.  A cheerful homebody can name the behaviors that will improve her job performance and take her career from good to great.  The hindrance is that those behaviors—“get out there,” “start networking,” and “make connections”—are as intimidating as they are perceptible.

My professional solution to this ongoing struggle with my inner introvert is embodied in the YPAL Excelerate series.  To see what I mean, I invite you now to join me in my Sarah mind.

Working as a grant writer, Sarah spends 90% of her work week sitting in a cubicle in front of a computer.  She sends emails throughout the day and makes and receives phone calls on occasion.  While she enjoys regular meetings and chats with co-workers, her sizeable desk time makes her feel miles away from downtown’s busy Central Business District, even though she’s located in it.  This sense of distance she cannot wholly attribute to her work.  She is trapped by her introverted habits.

But when notification of the next quarterly YPAL Excelerate workshop arrives in her inbox, she realizes, it’s about time I added professional development to my calendar again.  What better way to break free of her crusty habits than a booked appointment?  Soon she’s flying off to a day of people-meeting and skill-building.  Aha!  I’m out and about!  To a vague yet somewhat more specific “there”!

 There” she joins attendees and panel speakers who are gathered at a sponsoring business to share a predetermined space and time for the duration of the workshop.  Aha!  A flash network!  7-hours long and conveniently structured with breakfast, breaks, lunch, and group discussion.  I will definitely meet at least one new person today!

 She loves that the Excelerate topics vary widely—anything from Project Management to Generational Differences in the Workplace.  They touch on themes that she and her fellow professionals can relate to, so conversation comes easily.  Aha!  A topical point of commonality by which I may establish relations with this room full of strangers!

Sarah returns to work the next day feeling energized and empowered.  The workshop imparted new information, expanded her perspective, and dedicated time to her professional career.  Back at her computer, Sarah happily connects with her new Excelerate acquaintances on LinkedIn.

 The Excelerate tagline is “Development Programs for the Young Professional.”  The series consistently delivers on that promise, and offers another more subtle guarantee: development opportunities for the young professional.  Excelerate is a program designed to develop your professional savvy in a room full of similarly intentioned individuals.  As such, it creates the needed space for young professionals to reflect on and discuss the individual work that lies ahead for each of us.  The speakers equip us with the thoughts and tools that will enable us to build toward a more polished, professional version of ourselves.  Whether you lean introverted or extroverted, you’ll be surprised by what Excelerate can do for you.

For this introvert, it’s certainly worth leaving my desk.