If I hear the word “networking” one more time I think I’ll scream.
It’s the activity de rigueur for those young, up-and-coming career climbers who need other people to help them achieve success. Too bad I’m not in that category. My worries about climbing disappeared many years ago. I’m happy with a nice, steady, smooth career with occasional moments of sheer joy or sheer panic.
So you’re invited to a cocktail party or educational seminar. You really don’t want to go, since it means you will actually have to TALK to people. Not just talk to people, but come up with topics to talk about on the fly, with people you have never met before. And keep the conversation going past the first Uh-huh.
You don’t know these people, and who knows? They may be Jack the Ripper, or an alt-right devotee. Or a beautiful woman who thinks the color of your hair and what you wear is something really important. What do you say??
OH, but it is a great NETWORKING OPPORTUNITY!!!, everyone says. You will get to know people who a. Can do you a favor in your business, or b. Can do you a favor in your personal life, or c. Have lots of money, or d. Have lots of power.
Looking at that list above makes me feel like a bottom-feeding fish waiting for the big fish above to drop something out of their mouth. Ugh!
But I usually go anyway, take a deep breath as I enter the room, scan the faces for someone I might already know (regardless of their “value” to my business or their net worth), and park myself next to them, chatting about the weather, or how their job has been going. My smile feels frozen.
The dictionary defines networking as “.. a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.”
Who in this crowd has a common interest? We’re a sea of random unique people thrown into a room. (Unless it’s a convention of Trekkies, of course)
OK– now for the overdue admission of TRUTH: At many networking events I have attended, I actually do meet interesting people who have a connection to my life. They are often the ones who are willing to sit down at a table, or stand in the corner and talk one-on-one, and obviously aren’t worrying about networking. Their eyes don’t scan the crowd looking for someone with money, or power, or business connections. They just want to have a quiet drink and talk (or not talk!) about things that matter to them.
So I continue to attend these events, and force myself to do the initial struggle of looking for those quiet people who, like myself, want to find a corner to share their work, their dreams, and their challenges. That connection can be priceless.