No More Networking Nightmares!
I miss lockdown! Those wonderful days when I didn’t have to network. I don’t mean networking as in stealing (I prefer the word ‘borrowing’) my neighbour’s Wi-Fi. However, if you use your street name as a password you CLEARLY want to share.
I’m referring to networking as in that outdated system of ‘face to face communication’. For those too young to remember, this consists of standing in front of other human beings and engaging in impromptu ‘talking’ and sometimes making strange noises called ‘laughter’ (which, by the way, is the sound made by LOL). All this without a screen to keep you safe in the comfort of your cosy cloud cocoon.
Scary? It gets worse. On many occasions, you will be forced to do this with complete strangers! Absolutely no time to Google, Instagram or Tinderize them. To make matters worse you’re expected to answer questions like, ‘Do you like the canapes?’, totally off the cuff! You can’t even TikTok ‘DryCanapes’ for an answer!
Now you might be forgiven for preferring Netflix to Networking (I certainly do) but hear me out, because studies show that this archaic ritual is the answer to all business, sales and revenue problems! It even helps with insomnia, which I totally understand because if I had all my business, sales and revenue problems solved, I’d sleep like a sloth at siesta time.
The issue is the activity itself: NETWORKING. Defined as: A group of dedicated people who are committed to maintain a relationship with each other in order to support a given set of activities. Forgive me but DEDICATION, COMMITMENT and SUPPORT are really BIG words that remind me of my marriage vows. And as much as I’d love to tell you how that turned out…
Divorce and alimony aside, fear of networking is universal. A recent survey shows most of us would rather face a wild tiger in the jungle rather than engage in this activity. In some extreme cases, PUBLIC SPEAKING was listed as ‘preferable’ to networking!
What is a network phobic supposed to do? Well, I’ve gone on a NETWORK gathering mission and have exclusive, never before published techniques on how … NOT to network.
We start off with NETWORKING PASSIVELY, a technique used by most first timers because of its simplicity. I stand around looking at my shoes with the interest of a tax collector searching for money. I’m hoping someone will come and say ‘Hello. Do you network here often?’. It doesn’t happen.
Instead I fall into to NETWORK ENVY, an offshoot of PASSIVELY, as I see everyone else is part of a fun-filled group, talking, laughing and having a good time! Business contacts are flying around faster than insults at the reading of my rich uncle’s will. As all this revenue-making- activity is happening, I’m stuck with a guy who gives me a 30-minute-monologue on model trains. For the record I have nothing against model trains, but aren’t we supposed to take turns talking? That’s what it said when I Googled ‘The Art of Conversation’.
Trapped in what is described as NETWORKING NEGATIVELY, I try to extricate myself from this tedious nonversation by using the excuse that countless people have used when they want to get away, ‘I’ll be back. … I’m just going to the toilet’. Unfortunately, with ‘model train guy’ when I don’t return, he hunts me down, ‘So there you are! I was waiting for you blah blah blah …’.
So then I become what is officially known as a NETWORKING PUSHOVER, a person who cannot get out of a bad networking situation. I have to stoically endure another 30 minutes on models, this time on ‘How to make a cheap but aesthetically pleasing pond for your model’. Apparently, it takes artistry and creativity.
Finally, with zero contacts but a train load of model knowledge, I go to the nearest bar and ask for too many G&Ts.
At least the barman’s listening.
Sonia Aste is an engineer, writer, comedian and a network phobic.
Published by Toastmasters International UK & Ireland