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How Not to Meet People on the Road

I find myself telling students “don’t look for colleges the way I did” all the time. I was the student that did well in school, did not flinch at acceptance criteria, did not explore the options and just followed her sister to school without even talking to a counselor or scheduling a visit. I am so thankful that I got lucky enough to love the institution I enrolled at – so much that they sucked me back in as an admission counselor.

Now, I find myself telling counselors “don’t start your time as a road warrior like I did.” I am an introvert. I know – “An introvert in admissions? How?” Ask your staff – I am sure you will find more introverts than expected. An introvert is not someone who necessarily is shy or does not enjoy people, but an introvert is someone who draws their energy from being alone. This personality is not the easiest to carry onto the road.

After a day of high school visits and an evening of college fairs, it is SO easy to head straight to the hotel and call it quits with people. Unfortunately, this is also what leads to not enjoying your time as a road warrior and can contribute to burn out. The feeling of being alone grows weary, especially with a large territory that involves new counselor faces almost every day.

After a couple weeks of traveling solo and not knowing anyone beyond my neighbor tables (you all know what I mean here), this obnoxious man decided to mess up my table display while I was grabbing a plate of snacks. After learning that I was not an alum of the college I was representing at the time, he shared some proud alumni bologna and introduced himself. I am horrible with names, so at first I just called him Drake since that is where he worked. I soon realized that Justin (as he reminded me) was the biggest pain in my butt on the road – but also my greatest blessing. Even once he learned about my super strength of saying no to invites, he continued to ask. He continued to talk with me and, best of all, he continued to introduce me to other people. Soon I, Jordan, knew other counselors by school AND name. I was making friends, both on Facebook and in real life, with assistance and even on my own.

I quickly learned that being a road warrior is not meant to be a solo battle. No one understands the road like the others that travel it with you; to shut them out would be a loss. I recognize who I am and that I prefer a limited amount of social interaction – but I learned ways to combat that. So here are my introvert tips:

  1. Be true to yourself, but open to others and who they are. You might not know my “Justin,” but I hope you have a “Justin” of your own. A person on the road who is your opposite. Whether they push you to be more social, or reign you in at the end of a long day, find a person that compliments you and stick with them as long as your territory allows.
  2. Find more than one person. Covering the whole state of Illinois and part of Iowa, I understand the struggle of a geographically demanding territory and the variety of people that come with that. I cannot rely on one person to be at every event or that one of our territories or jobs might change, so I have made a conscious effort to meet people in every area I cover, so I always have a go-to friend.
  3. Going out at night is not the only way to socialize. This might be the way you relax, but it could also be something that drains you. Finding someone to grab a bite with at a fair, sitting with someone while you work at a coffee shop or doing a movie night at your hotel are all great alternatives to a late night out.
  4. Find a Newbie. We have all been there and we all know how exciting and terrifying it can be. Invite them into your circle, ask them to grab lunch, talk to them at the fair or maybe mess up their table display a little. The smallest effort could be the spark of a lifelong friendship.
  5. Refuel. However this looks for you, make sure to refuel. Whether that is sleeping in on a Thursday, because you worked late and nothing is on your calendar, or checking out the pool at your hotel for the first time this season – make sure you stay true to yourself and find your balance.
  6. Just. Keep. Trying. The season can get tiring, daunting and draining. But it is so important to keep trying to do a good job, to meet new people and to interact. Ask the person that said no last week if they want to join you this week, sometimes no means not today but please ask again.
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