Networking – a necessary evil?
By Penelope Whitson,
How long before networking becomes a university subject?
While attending one of the many glamorous and fabulous events I often am invited to at my local pub, such as Table Tennis Thursday, I was asked if I was on LinkedIn.
No – stop right there, don’t bother trying to look me up to admire my varied skillz and many connections – I’m not. I realise LinkedIn is very ‘in’ right now but so were hammer pants once upon a time. I think I made the right decision in regards to those and for the moment, I’m fine without LinkedIn also. Until I need a new job, of course, whereupon I shall become a believer and treat LinkedIn as though it is the messiah and the second coming is nigh.
I am not much of a networker – online or in real life. I talk to people because I like them or I find them attractive. I try to avoid the ones I don’t like, regardless of the connections they may have, unless they’re related to the Whittaker’s chocolate family. And I’m a firm believer in only handing over my business card for bar competitions.
But I was recently bribed into going to a networking event. And when I say bribed, I mean my host said, ‘Come drink wine’. I love free wine! Even more when it’s not out of a box. However, I was slightly concerned that I’d wind up in the corner clutching my gratis grape juice trying to quietly slurp up enough Dutch courage to talk to people.
Fortunately, it transpired that the other attendees had no qualms about walking up to strangers, introducing themselves and making small talk. I am in awe of such confidence. And they were mostly easy to talk to – although, given the free wine, maybe they were all just squiffy? They were also much better at coherently describing what they do for a living.
Mental note to self – when asked what I do, do not say, ‘I correct spelling mistakes’. A better description is required – maybe one where I talk myself up, such as, ‘I prevent my fellow employees from embarrassing themselves in the written form on a daily basis. I am the last bastion of hope.’
Upon leaving the event I realised that I’d amassed a wallet full of business cards. I didn’t give away any of my own – like I said, I need them for the bar competitions. I have no idea of what to do with these cards. Build card houses? Start rubbish bin fires? Pass myself off as someone else? I guess I could actually, you know, use them. It does seem like an outlandish idea when I could just write shopping lists on the back, though. Or use them as ballast to stop café tables from wobbling.
Given the popularity of networking I fully expect it to soon become a university subject, if it hasn’t already.
Networking 101: How to slip your business card into someone’s hand in a casual and relaxed manner and not come across as a stalker with a penchant for coloured cardboard and fancy but empty titles.