How Not to Network

I hate to network.

Which is a problem when one is looking for work.

So I sheepishly asked my neighbor and fellow “Small business owner” to come with me to a networking event that was cheap and close to where we live.

hello my name is copy

She picked me up and off we went, neither one of us in the mood to talk to strangers let alone sell ourselves. I seriously couldn’t sell a gun to Ted Nugent if I tried.

I’m not sure how normal this is, but the event was held in a club space, complete with all manner of club crap that that suggests: Loud house music, louder voices raised to compensate, low lighting (now THAT I can appreciate), back-lit bar, backless white couches. It was packed. We did our best to squeeze sideways between Millennials and thirty-somethings to find the “name tag” station.

Name tags. Why does the very idea leave me anxious? Without one, you can float around anonymously, avoiding eye-contact and the self-consciousness that a Hi I’m PAULA stuck above my left boob blasts.

And these were no ordinary name tags. Good god, no. They were color coded to match one’s industry and category of work, sort of, because the list they used was confusing, broad, and hard to figure out. Not only that, the yellow name tags (corresponding to the category that remotely matched what each of us did) were gone. We found this amusing. So my neighbor selected a green tag for “military”; I chose purple for “food service” and off we went to a dark corner to hide.

Up walked a guy who did something IT related. “Hi I’m Ned” he said as he shoved out his hand. He quickly asked what we did and watched in horror as we both took far too long to explain what that was. As his eyes scanned the room for his next connection, he offered up a, “you really need to hone your elevator pitch”, and off he went in his blazer, designer denim and colorful running shoes, the uniform for men on the move, apparently.

The next guy was in and out even faster, realizing that we had nothing to offer. It’s a numbers game, and he swiped left.

We did meet some great women, one who found her calling as a professional organizer after helping a friend straighten out his storage space. We had no idea such a job existed. She proudly claimed to be a member of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, which made her legit. It was refreshing to meet someone so excited about what they did and not just pretending, or recited memorized “elevator pitches” like robots.

We went home making no connections, which somehow okay.

It wasn’t authentic. The whole thing felt like a bad night out from my single days. And when, really, the best way to meet someone is organically, or through friends. Which is what has made both of our businesses successful for so many years.

If you do want to venture out, here is a link to Eventbrite is here.

Wear something bright. Take a deep breath and tell yourself “I can do this.” Get there early enough to score your proper color-coded name tag.

And go get ’em.


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