Networking is So Awkward

People are always saying “you’ve got to network. It’s the only way to open doors for yourself.” There’s definitely some truth behind the concept… but let’s talk about how freaking awkward it is. You nudge your way into a bunch of uncomfortable conversations, waiting for your opportunity to interject and sound intelligent. One poor soul’s droning on about their job or their kids or their alma mater or the power of social media… and you’re forced to stand there holding your drink, nodding and smiling and asking just the right question that will elicit a string of even more boring sentences. My go-to question is always: “oh now what does that entail?” It never fails. Try it.

Then be prepared for your eyes to glass over immediately. I call it “blacking out” but in a very different way. Because when you’ve been to enough of these things, you learn how to function like a well-oiled machine. Chuckle, nod, serious face of curiosity, another nod, laugh, sip, smile, repeat. Sometimes if no one’s looking you can get a nice glug of wine in without anyone noticing… but this maneuver is only for experts. Do not glug on your first Schmoozefest. You will spill all over yourself while Jack Smith pontificates on the recession and how painful it was for his Charitable Gifts department.

A quick stop at the bar or restroom and you can weave your way into another enthralling social circle. In this one, Bobby Boredom is recapping the tours of the twelve college campuses he visited with his offspring. “Oh well Chapel Hill is incomparable. Nicholas absolutely adored it there. The library is brand new and the dining hall serves five star dinners.” How am I supposed to even contribute to this nonsense, Bob? “Oh yes I heard they have a great salad bar there. And the stadium is magical.” Glug glug glug glug glug. “I’ll be right back just have to grab another drink and say hello to my friend Get Me The Hell Out of Here.”

About face. Forward march. Third bar trip. And now we scheme our way into another loop of networkers. This time, Patrick Fitzpatrick is listing all the countries he’s traveled to on business or otherwise in the past month. “It’s been so hectic. I’ve been to China, Greece, Japan and France, and I’m in and out of our California office at least once a week! My wife feels like she barely sees me.” Your wife must thank God for that, Patrick, lest you bore her to tears. “Oh wow that must be soooo exhausting…but I’m sure you get to see so many amazing things!” “Meh.. you’d be surprised… the novelty wears off.” Oh. Well in that case, I suggest just off yourself now and get it over with. Glug. Pivot.

Next I’ll sashay into this circle of seemingly normal girls my age. Ahhh lovely, I’m just in time to hear Sarah Snotbag drone on about her new Chanel messenger bag. “It’s soooo functional because I’m all over the place with work. I need space for everything you can think of when I’m on the road. I get a ton of free stuff from clients, too, so I have four more at home.” “Oh wow. That’s beautiful. I love the color.”***

***- “I hope that gets stolen by a thug completing his gang initiation.”

“Girls I’ll be right back, I’m just going to go stab my eyeball out with this martini toothpick. Don’t worry, I’ll be back!”

This is the point where you find yourself bordering on buzzed. Or maybe that last martini kicked you right into high gear. The passed appetizers are losing their luster. You wish you could just be surrounded by your goofy-ass friends discussing important things like Family Guy and Taco Bell. It’s a good time to take a breather. Perhaps step outside or into the restroom where you can call a friend and tell them how badly you need to leave. They’ll help craft a plausible excuse and then invite you to the bar next door where PG-13 and over conversations are happening. Genius. I love my friends.

But you can’t leave! People are going to be lining up at the exit with job offers! This is your future! Throw your business cards at as many people as humanly possible. Hell, just toss them all up in the air at once. Make it rain up in this bitch! Something’s gotta bite, right?

Wrong. Well at least that’s been my experience. I’ve yet to see any concrete job offers as a result of a networking event. It’s nice to be out there. Some people really are interesting to speak to (though few and far between), and others really might have a “contact” in your desired field… but these people can only lead your potential future boss to the water….they can’t make him or her drink. And they certainly can’t prove you’re competent based on a ten minute conversation you both had about sailboats. Glug glug glug glug glug glug. Glug. It’s just easier.


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