By Byron Evora, Jaunty Graduate
I work in the video game industry as a Sound Designer. It's a pretty awesome job, but big changes in my life made me want to increase my social agility.
I'm an introvert and while I've always seen myself as moderately social, I used to feel a tinge of anxiety before putting myself out there. It wasn't really an issue until last year when I decided to start my own game audio company. Prior to this, handling a few conferences or networking events a year was easy, and even fun - I was a full-time employee at a company and was only interested in making friends and increasing my contacts list. When I split off on my own, the amount of these events increased exponentially. I was now searching for clients, and something tangible was now at stake.
The golden apple of these conferences happens right here in San Francisco, every March. It's called The Game Developers Conference, or GDC.
It's a funny little secret among developers that while the workshops are incredibly informative, they're not actually the real conference. The friendship making, deals, and networking actually happen off-site, during meet-ups, mixers, and of course, the parties.
Imagine putting hundreds of introverts (mostly male) into a room. Some are looking for their next job, others are trying to break into the industry, and a few are there to catch up with old friends. The energy in the party is awkward and stagnant. Nobody's talking except for the circles of old friends, and those more socially comfortable are dominating the room. The rest are wallflowers, shrinking into themselves. In a couple hours, though, the party's jumping.
How? With booze... Copious amounts of booze (among other things - it is SF, and a party, after all). From my experience, GDC is a week of getting hammered until late into the night and making new friends, many of whom don't remember one another the next day. The more intimate networking events throughout the year are similar.
When I signed up for Jaunty, I told Eric I was primarily interested in the six-week class to make connecting with potential clients faster and easier. But that was only half the story. It was also for my health. For at least one night, I'll always tear up the city with my friends at GDC, but throughout rest of the year, this was getting both awfully expensive, and severely unhealthy.
I was four weeks into the course when GDC happened in 2015.
During a party, I walked up to a group of five complete strangers and introduced myself. They were polite, but I could see them starting to armor up for the typically weird small talk followed by the awkward handshake and exchange of business cards. But I didn't talk about work, at least not yet... I asked them what they'd been up to that day and took the conversation to some place fun. Nobody had a single drink yet, but we were having a great time.
When it was time for them to meet up with friends at another party, I had nursed a single drink and none of the group had more than three. One of them remarked that we're normally trashed at this point in the night. I was about to initiate the business card thing, but thought we'd built such rapport, why mar the experience by bringing it back to the subject of work? There'd be plenty of other nights like this and maybe I'd run into them again.
But then, they asked me to go with them. I had no invitation and no badge, but they knew the people throwing it. It wouldn't be a problem at all.
That entire night, I had two drinks and didn't ask for a single business card - they just offered them to me. Further, one of the guys was working on an amazing project (one of my dream gigs) and told me to call him the following week. That phone call included a project director who was interested in possibly using my company to help out on their game. Next came an onsite lunch to meet the team, and finally an offer to bid on the work right away. By then I had finished the Jaunty course and was completely at ease meeting new groups of people, and making them feel at ease without a single beer.
I got the gig.
By Eric Waisman
Does being around happy people make us happier? About half of our subjective happiness is influenced by circumstance and genetics. The other half is by behaviors and environment.
A huge part of your environment is the people that surround you. To someone who's just getting to know you, you probably look like a microcosm of the people in your life. Remember the old, "You are what you eat"? Well I think "You are who you hang out with" is even more true.
Since we're so affected by the people closest to use, it makes sense to choose our friends thoughtfully since they'll end up rubbing off on us! If you're around people who consistently prioritize work over everything else, then you may find yourself working longer hours and checking your work email at the weekend too. If you hang out with negative, cynical people then those aspects of your personality will probably become more pronounced.
At Jaunty we think a lot about consciously building a social circle that enlivens and nurtures us. Since we teach social intelligence skills to help people approach anyone and actively build the meaningful relationships they want, the sky is the limit for how you want your social life to look.
Besides becoming more like the people we spend a lot of time with, we learn so much from them too. We learn what to do in certain situations and what not to do. I'm a big fan of continuous education as a form of personal growth. My favorite thing to study is people. Right now I'm reading about Ida Eisenhower and Francis Perkins in David Brooks' inspiring book "The Road to Character". We also learn from people in the news. I was touched by how Kanye helped Kim accept her stepdad, Olympian Bruce Jenner coming out as transgender. We also learn from watching and learning from people's mistakes, including our own.
How would you respond if you were suddenly laid off from work? It's easy to imagine feeling scared, angry and frustrated. "How could they do this to me? After all I've done for the company, this is how they repay me?"
I've actually had two friends get laid off and it was wild to see how differently they responded. One friend reacted very emotionally. He got super angry at his boss and managers and totally burned that bridge. My other friend took it in stride. She reacted positively, feeling it wasn't a personal decision against her and seeing it as a great opportunity for bigger and better things. She ended up getting a great referral letter from her boss that helped her land her dream job.
She totally inspired me. And those two incidents helped teach me to put a wedge in my negative emotions and not respond habitually. Being more aware of the big picture and being thoughtful in our responses are an important part of emotional intelligence. My friend getting her dream job also taught me to be more patient in my own life. This has helped me with other relationships where I felt there was a strain, but realized that patience is king.
What's a social strategy you've learned from someone in your life?
By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"I want to take my life to the next level," Daniel Evan Lee told Eric, after the free Jaunty workshop. "I feel like I'm plateauing." After college, he'd gotten a sales job at a start-up. Three years later he kept wondering if there was a better opportunity out there, somewhere that would be a better fit, where he could make more money.
Working in sales, he felt his social intelligence and relationship skills were directly related to the deals he could close. He thought, "If I can advance my awareness and interactions with others," then maybe he could up his whole game.
He signed up for Jaunty's six-week course with the intention of improving his business life and being ready when his big moment came.
"I'm glad I got to take a class with a range of people and not just business people." In college, Daniel pitched multiple business ideas that were all shot down by his peers and executives. He got comfortable with rejection and learning to manage social anxiety. At Jaunty, he says, "One of the bigger skills I've learned is how to make other people feel more comfortable when they're uncomfortable."
This past fall, six months after taking the course, Daniel was "killing it" at work. He felt confident and interviewed for jobs at three companies in different industries.
"There was this one I really wanted," Daniel says. "I put my all into it." He recalls the extreme disappointment when he wasn't hired.
Then, three weeks into the New Year, a direct competitor reached out to him. His big moment had come. He met up for a beer with the competitor's CEO.
"This guy made millions of dollars with his old company. He's very techie and aggressive. What I chose to wear that day was planned and precise. I've noticed when I wear a baseball hat people pre-judge me." So he wore his baseball hat. "He looks me up and down, kind of hesitant. I can feel it. I said, 'Dude, let's keep it transparent. Why did you reach out to me?'" They went right into the opportunity.
"I was that person they were looking for." Daniel didn't have to prove anything to them. "I felt like I was on fire. I was in the zone." Daniel kept a poker face and stayed focused on his moment even after the CEO offered him a job with a salary and commission that he couldn't refuse.
Thanks to Jaunty, Daniel says, "I noticed his body language, the speed of his delivery of words. It happened so fast but so slow. I vividly remember what's going on." Daniel feels all his social intelligence work went into that moment. Feeling high status and confident, he knew how to present himself.
Daniel really believes in his new company and feels supported in his new job.
"Twelve months ago I couldn't tell you that I'd be feeling this way about my life. That feeling of being excited and waking up before your alarm is amazing." He used to commute from the City to Berkeley every day and now that work is ten minutes away, he has an extra ten hours a week of free time. He enjoys going to the gym on his way home. He's looking forward to buying a house. "I can be my own true Jaunty and have fun with life."
"Jaunty has been incredible," Daniel says. "It gave me skills to lead a conversation, to guide the entire feeling of a conversation to where I'd like it to go. It's helped me slow down my life. I'm way quicker on my feet with jokes. We all have opportunities. Now I feel like I'm getting better and picking the best ones."