Being the Constant New Girl

by Emily Jasper on August 5, 2010

I would like to think I’m a pro at being the New Girl. I’m getting ready for move number thirteen, attended six different schools before high school and regularly walk into a room ready to make friends. Once you leave the academic comfort zone, however, you find all kinds of situations that force you to feel like the New Girl all over again.

The usual scenarios include being new at the office or new in town. In a world where we’re constantly connected online, we forget that you can have the same New Girl jitters interacting on the web.

As a blogger who has been trying to navigate my way in this ever-expanding digital space, I feel like every time I get a little bit comfortable with one group, I’m starting all over again with another.

With my own blog, I take time to get to know my readership. I thank and reply as often as possible, making sure I’m delivering on expectations. When I got started, it took me a while to figure out the rhythm. Did I promote myself? How did I get other bloggers reading my work? Will too much promotion turn people off? What if people don’t agree with me?

Just like being the New Girl in school, being the New Blogger comes with the same kinds of questions and uncertainties. Fortunately, being confident and observant are two skills that help in either situation.

Confidence is key when you’re in a new scenario. If you’re constantly doubting or questioning, people won’t look at your work with the kind of authority you’re trying to portray. You don’t have to be pompous, being an arrogant expert who probably isn’t qualified to deliver proclamations from a soapbox. Instead, if you share advice and stories you’ve used and experienced yourself, you come across as genuine. If people don’t agree, consider their point of view, and determine how you can respectfully react. They then will be respectful in return, even if they disagree.

Being observant is so important when you’re facing a situation where there’s no GPS to help you navigate. For me, I write a lot of posts at various collaborative websites, sometimes with no clear rules from an editor or the community manager. I am one of those people who prefers structure, so “Have at it” causes me more anxiety than a 20-page Style Guide.

When you’re writing for someone new or interacting with a different community, take some time to observe and research. Read through other posts, retweeting and commenting just as you would with the blogs you regularly read. Do they have a fan page where there’s more interaction that just the posts? Are there core users you should get to know? What trends in topics have you noticed?

While I don’t suggest changing your style for every situation, you were asked to contribute because of what you’ve written before, you may have ways to experiment. Taking time to observe gives you the freedom to take on topics you might not normally cover on your own blog. You might enjoy the challenge of writing with a new set of collaborators, having a new set of eyes reacting to your work.

The more you get used to being the New Girl online, the more you will use your confidence and observation skills each time you work with a new website or community. You can then bring those skill back to your work, community or school, and you’ll be considered a pro.

What skills have you learned to help you with being New? Do you feel we ever overcome the anxiety?

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