I have probably rewritten this post 5 times now. I keep trying to hit on how uncomfortable networking is for me without making it sound like I think it’s worthless or that I hate people. That’s the whole point of this post; I love people and I think networking is essential to so many people’s careers these days. I can deny it but I’d be wrong. I don’t even think people need to me super selfish about their networking. If doesn’t have to be about me struggling as a new graduate (does 18+ months still count me in that category?) and wanting to meet people to give me a job (but seriously if you think I’m a half-way-same human, feel confident that I won’t bite my colleagues, and think I might actually get things done, please do hire me), I’ve sort of beem forced to take a different approach I don’t know many people where I live. I mean, it’d be great to meet people who I just know on a professional level but I need to deal with resolving my lack of permanent jobs first – it’s a string of internships and the likes, people, it ain’t easy. I mostly just want to know people for the sake of knowing them.
For me, having to network in the traditional sense is soooooo uncomfortable. People ask me about my job situation and I’m like “well… I’m working in retail right now but I actually have all this experience in marketing and that’s what I went to school for but I really want to do something that’d be some cool combo between social work and communications/marketing” I was working in retail like 6 months ago. That’s not even a thing any more but my career goals are still the same. And yet I’m also super open to trying out different things because I’ll say I like X or Y and turn around and get just as excited about A or B – I have a few constant interests but I’m not ready to limit myself quite yet. So it’s kind of hard to sell myself professionally to total strangers without a targeted focus (eg a specific job in mind) and a lot of my career things st the moment don’t really revolve around a certain job until or unless I am invited to a job interview. A lot of it involves around getting experience and making some kind of awesome difference and going back to school for my masters in social work or religion or sociology or economics or business (or maybe even 2 of those). I know that I am not the only one who’s like “uhm… this will take a while because I’m still not sure what my career is and I know this is a networking event but trying to suscintly discuss my board career goals without a specific focus is hard, let’s talk about you”. I’m also introverted so… I hide by the wall when I don’t know anyone. Which is funny cause I might not shut up when I get going.
I get all weird and cagey about traditional networking, but sometimes it works. I met a hairdresser one time. She was decent. In the same place I talked about Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Star Wars with some people. I’ve had a good time at some career focused networking events. It’s just kind of… weird. I’m just not the kind of person who’s super wild about relying on these events for connections because I feel like I have to talk about my job situation which is unstable and tenuous at best and I don’t want people thinking I’m there to just mooch jobs off of them. So I’ve turned to other means.
One thing I love is volunteering. It’s a great way to get some experience make some connections. Some people I’ve known for years through my volunteer roles and it can be really social.
I’ve also decided getting out there and making some more friends it’s totally legit form of networking. After all, someone I’ve talked to at a networking event for 20 minutes tops isn’t likely to want to give me a job – it’s a slow build up and depending on the circumstance I’m probably not going to ring them up for a coffee date because I don’t want to bother them or else I’d be unsure where we stand and what the next steps are besides an email being like “yo! Nice meeting you!” So I mean, I definitely need to work on that when I do go network but I also just think that going to yoga classes or the gym or to MeetUp groups of events on Eventbrite or Facebook can go a long way, plus trying to keep in touch with people I already know and talking to people I haven’t talked to in a while.
I’m not sure how it’ll go. It’s a bit of an experiment in “hm, how many different things can I do that are not traditional networking but still justify it in the name of having a social life and could be called networking if I really wanted it to me called as such?”
I’m hoping if I share about it that it’ll help people like me who get really uncomfortable about networking know they’re not alone and there are possibly alternatives that work for us.