I accompany “coworker” to a mixer, the atmosphere is light, slightly upscale, free food and wine. In almost an instant she is lost amongst the crowd, I don’t know any one here but wine makes me talkative anyway. I mingle amongst folks and for every flirting not flirting interaction and inquiry about me and “coworker’s” status, there was pitch after pitch. There were even women I thought was hitting on me and boom right into the pitch. Some were interesting and we exchanged information, others sounded as sketchy as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. I couldn’t help but feel somewhat out of place, one contrary to my flyness I’m a dollarnaire to the core, two because I still don’t have a hustle. Networking in general is still uncharted territory for me, I always had jobs (security, shipping, IT, bookkeeping) where I pretty much came did my job and went home. When I worked in positions like sales and retail, I never did well because I always felt like I was bothering. Essentially I look at things as if it were me, I go into stores pretty much knowing what I want, I don’t want your credit card, I don’t want the more expensive version, I want to get in get out and get going. At the mixer, despite there being loads of opportunity I found myself pretty much an open ear/arm candy. I got to do better.
A few weeks into 2013, I’ve found my first resolution; grow, build and evolve my network. When I think about it, my network now is pretty underrated. I don’t think about it much because I’m typically to myself but on a good day I see about a half dozen people I know; whether its a former colleague, ex, friend of a friend, couple that with a modest online presence I have a bit to work with. Networking itself is the challenge, I have to get over the idea that I’m saying something worth listening to, or rather actually have something worth listening to. This is essentially why I prefer writing, you say what you feel and it’s out there, people can choose to read it or not, but the pressure of making it worth their time is alleviated. At the mixer, I tried to act interested even when I wasn’t, sometimes I was good at it, other times my poker face failed and I can see the defeat growing in their eyes. Perhaps that was the INFJ in me, wanting to be that one lead they could go home and feel good about, even when I inevitably block their email.
They say the key to networking is to actually be passionate about what you’re talking about. Perhaps that’s the missing piece. When people ask about my job, I more or less answer it like it’s a question in school. I like my job, but it’s not necessarily my passion, it pays my bills. The other is simply being in ones comfort zone. For example, I was talking to one woman in particular, she was gorgeous so she probably could’ve talked to me about Love and Hip Hop and had my undivided but actually we both clicked on the overall blahness of the venue. I tossed out how I would love to open a bar/lounge in the neighborhood, perhaps one where a young professional of color would not stick out like a sore thumb (there were like 12 of us in a place of at least 100, we counted). The pretty networker was an event planner, she went on and on about how she would’ve did things differently, how she might throw a similar event on her own. “Coworker”, a little jealous, ended our meeting and echoed a sentiment “Miss” had told me before, that I had no problem talking to anyone as long as she was female, and that I needed to branch out more and get out of my comfort zone.
It wasn’t true of the 4 people I exchanged information with, she was the only female. Aside from that her theory flawed, considering it was meeting her that got me to the event which got me a few new contacts, but I just left it alone. Not to her liking but I expanded my network, 4 people knew me that didn’t prior. The issue now is the next step, I’m not sure how to make the relationships mutually beneficial. Networking is more or less give and take and I’m not sure what I’m giving, or even taking, at least not yet. For perhaps my first networking event (well not really i’ve been to others), I came away with some contacts, a couple hundred calories of wine, and an increasingly awkward relationship with a coworker. Not bad at all.