The practice of networking is something in which I am terribly deficient. For me, the Internet has provided a very welcome replacement to in-person networking. I assume a lot of other people agree with me due to the boon of social and professional networking sights. There’s even one that is directed at occupational networking, which I just had to remove my profile from because someone that I fired wanted me to be their “friend.” I always thought termination was a clear sign that the relationship between two people is over, but maybe we’re too desensitized because of The Apprentice (at the very least it’s desensitized to me billionaire douche bags who wear road kill on their head).
Admittedly my first experience with networking was a bad one. I had just graduated from college and was looking for a job in my field so at the advice of some mentors, I decided to go to a professional conference to “network.” Now, being a bit green, I didn’t really know what networking meant and I interpreted it as going to meet people, shaking their hand, and telling them how great I thought they were, in short, kissing ass. I was elated when I arrived at the conference and saw a session called, “Networking for New Professionals.” This was perfect, it would take all the guess-work out of this mysterious act, and even better it was on the second day of the conference which meant I could spend the remaining 4 days shopping, drinking, and making out with cute boys I’d never see again.
When I arrived at the session, there were a lot people my age standing around with their hands in their pockets. It appeared that, they too, did not understand the act of networking. The quiet room changed instantly when the session facilitator, Margie, walked in. She was pleasantly plump, had blush circles that looked they were drawn with a compass, and a Big Gulp full of Diet Coke. This woman was one set of Lane Bryant Spanx away from being the most obvious fag hag if I’d ever seen.
She immediately started yelling as if she was a professional cheerleader, “I need everyone to get really excited! We are going to start this networking session with a really low-risk activity that doesn’t involve too much sharing.” Great! I thought, day two and we’re already onto oral. I love networking! Well, it wasn’t anything that pleasurable.
Margie went on to enthusiastically explain that we were going to play a game where we toss a hacky sack to each other and say something true about our lives. It started off well, people were saying things like, “In second grade, I won a talent contest—When I was growing up, I had a golden retriever—This exercise is insulting to my intelligence.” (Okay, so that last one was just my internal thought).
But the next thing I knew, Margie had the hacky sack, was throwing it to me and yelled out, “I’m a survivor of incest.” I stood there paralyzed out of shock as the hacky sack hit me in the head. I thought, “say something Ryan. This is networking and if you don’t say something, you’ll never work again.” Nervously, I threw the hacky sack without even knowing what I was going to say and as the hacky sack was in midair, it came out, “I’m close to my parents too.” Needless to say, the networking session didn’t lead to any job offers.
Photo Credit: Peter Davis