On Networking (and why I kinda suck a it)

There’s a reason why I wouldn’t be able to survive in Corporate America. First of all, I look terrible in blazers. Second of all, I don’t wear heels. And third of all, I can’t network. Like at all.

(Oh Working Girl! How you’ve imprinted yourself upon my imagination forever!)

Even the word “network” makes me go all heeby-jeeby and flop-sweaty and I can’t do it. Not only that, I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to get out of networking. Gigs? New best friends? Award nominations? I have no idea.

Instead, I chat, eat food and get the heck out of there before someone sees that I don’t know what I’m doing.

Still, despite the fact that I’m communication-deficient, I decided to go to the Minnesota Magazine Publisher’s Association’s yearly freelancer and editor Mingle. Essentially, it’s like those parties that we went to in college when people wore stickers indicating if they were interested in men or women (or both), or if they were in a committed relationship and just wanted to hang out and have fun. I always thought that the parties that color-coded its attendees were more fun than the usual fare, because it eliminated confusion or crossed wires and everyone could relax and enjoy themselves. This was a similar concept, except, we were coded according to Writer or Editor or Publisher or Photographer, or whatever.

Now, unfortunately, that meant that, from time to time, some folks saw the W on my name badge and took it as an opportunity to give me the good ole fashioned brush-off, but on the whole, I had a nice time. I got to show off my Luddite-special super old cellphone to people (it sorta looks like this one: except that mine is bigger), and talk about new projects, and mostly it gave me an opportunity to get a better understanding of the landscape of magazine publishing in my state. And let me tell you: there’s a lot. I was stunned. I have some experience with the magazine world around here from my work with the (sadly defunct) Twin Cities Statement magazine, but the nature of that work consisted of the editor calling me up and asking for stories on various topics. I never had to pitch stories. I’m not entirely sure I know how to do it.

In any case, I’m glad I went. It was nice to chat with grown-ups, it was nice to learn, and it was nice to pretend that I was doing something for my career (largely untrue, of course, but since I lie for a living, why not lie to myself).

Here’s me from the behind, my signature orange purse slung across my back, sans blazer, sans heels, my undyed, unprocessed, untamable hair wound into a clip, chatting to the lovely Kelli Billstein.

Maybe I can learn the ways of Corporate America – all I need is my boss’s rolodex, a can of aquanet and a pack of Virginia Slims. (Because I’m sure nothing at all has changed from the days of Working Girl, right?)

4 thoughts on “On Networking (and why I kinda suck a it)

  1. I swear I have a social disorder. Going to these things BY MYSELF ignites an unfathomable terror in me. But I DO attend these kinds of things on occasion, and I make it through by doing what YOU do: lie to myself. I tell myself I’m confident, likable, one of these people who find it easy to engage in conversation. Someday, I’m hoping that I’ll get to that point like chronic liars do and start BELIEVING my lies. Until then, I can be found rocking and mumbling to myself in the corner.

    • I cannot read that comment without hearing Stewart Smally’s voice performing it in my head. 🙂

      And, truthfully, I can’t even believe myself when I start my little lie-mantra in my head. Instead, my internal conversation goes like this, “Dude, Kelly, you can totally do this. You can totally pretend that you are – – oooo! Cheese!” And off I go to the snack table.

  2. I’m glad you went, too!
    I always start with an exit plan: Say hello to three people and you can go home and eat popcorn. And if I get the three done pretty quick, I might make myself talk to one or two more people. And then I might eat a cracker with cheese. And meet one more person. And then I go home. But I’m always ALLOWED to go home after three. Also, I have found that “I suck at networking” makes a pretty good pickup line, because inevitably whoever I will use it on will say “Oh, G-d, me, too!” (But I suck worse.)

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