Being a ChiGirl In a Big-Mouthed Corporate World

Being a Chi Girl is a multi-surface kind of thing. I have defined a Chigirl as being a girl from the windy city. I’ve defined it by urban dictionary terms (and fully own it!). It’s also about being, literally, a shy girl. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with being a shy person. Some days it feels like a blessing, other days it’s an impediment. Some days I feel like the walking definition of shy with my head down and eyes to the ground. Other times I think, I’m just quiet because I’m too awesome to deal with some of these clowns. So what? If I had to define myself, I would say I’m someone who thinks before they speak, and who doesn’t speak to just anyone for the sake of speaking. I like to listen, observe, and ponder. I have to have something worth saying.

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But recently I have come to a crossroads where my career is based on the ability to talk fast and talk often.

I have a disdain for chit chat. I hate feeling like I’m waiting in line to have a conversation with people who I know aren’t listening. I hate ice-breakers and asking what feels like go-to questions just to get into a real conversation. I like when I talk to someone because I have something in common with them, and not just that we’re both trying to get something for our business. I don’t like forced conversation.

I once took a job selling Karaoke machines at Costco. It was a weird job, but by the first week I was a top seller (mainly because I generally love karaoke). I later took a job walking around Guitar Center trying to get people to sign up for music production classes. This was not an easy feat because, even as a musician, there’s so many programs and gear that I’m not familiar with yet had to strike up conversation with complete, uninterested strangers about them (If you are a regular at Guitar Center you probably know what I’m talking about and I apologize for interrupting your solo jam session). Within two weeks I was signing up people for producation class brochures left and right.  Both of those jobs only  lasted a couple of months because the energy put into doing something I loathed, even if it was talking about something I loved such as music, exhausted me to the point of tears.

I’ve somehow, again, become part of the marketing team at my current job and call current and prospective clients on a daily basis. I know what it takes to reach people. And, despite my shy factor, I have proven to myself that I can push myself to approach people, make conversation, and get the job done. My problem (and I apologize for my child tantrum here) is this-I just don’t like it. I happen to like being the keeps-to-themself, loner, quiet observer.

But for all the “be yourself” talk from the how-to books, it seems that the loud-mouthed salespeople of the world have made it necessary to be aggressive, assertive, chipper, and fast talking in order to survive. I know this becuase I’m surrounded by them, and it always seem like everyone expects me to be the same way. For as much as the books say that listening is key, why does it always feel like all anyone ever does these days it talk fast? And why is it bad to be authentically quiet yet good to be inauthentically social?

I have, somehow, become trapped in the business of selling. It seems all of my education, all of my training and work experience has led me to a career in selling of some sort and networking. How did this happen? I know I can’t be quiet all the time no matter what job I have. But in this kind of environment it feels like I have to be “on” all the damn time. I can’t be myself here, but I also can’t not be myself- it is who I am after all, and to be honest I kind of really like that part of myself. It seems to be a mess of my own making.But we all have to work, right? These student loans aren’t paying themselves! The reality is I don’t want to be in a job where I have to change who I am, not in this aspect at least. Do I have to be a networker 24/7? Is it possible to un-pigeon hole yourself? Does a quiet job exist that doesn’t involve a Master’s in science or math (although a music degree should count in these fields if you ask me)? Perhaps there is a place in the corporate world, where I can think, write, work hard but still keep ear buds in all day and stay nice and quiet in my cozy cubicle.  If there is, please let me know. I’m a hard worker, with lots of experience…and have great people skills.

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