Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Networking is Not My Game

“Where am I?”  I scan my printed directions for the third time to verify the address.  I look at the address on the building again . . . it's the same address.  I consult the directory posted on the wall, searching for the law firm where I was supposed to be five minutes ago . . . it is not there.  I look up and down the empty hallways wondering if maybe someone will know where I am supposed to go.  Finally a woman emerges from the elevator and I manage to corner her and ask if she knows where this law firm is.  She’s never heard of it.  But then a light bulb goes off in her head!  She says “Oh, there are two buildings with this address, the other one is just across the road.”  I thank her graciously and then walk across the street all the while thinking to myself “Who does that?  What brilliant city planner thought that having two different buildings with the same address on opposite sides of a service road would be a good idea?”

Tonight I went to my first law school alumni networking event since graduation four years ago.  I recently decided to attempt to get over my fear of networking and try to improve this skill that I never quite fully developed.  I am not a natural networker; I am who I am.  I know that I am not good at peripheral chit chat.  I am not good at making my work and/or life sound more important than it is without sounding pretentious or like I am bragging.  Whether valid or not, that is what I think of when I think of “networking.” Just the thought of walking into a room full of strangers and acquaintances, knowing I will have to engage in small talk in a noisy, crowded room is enough to make my palms sweat.

I almost didn’t go to the event tonight.  I had already had two business functions during the day – breakfast in Hollywood with a music supervisor and lunch back at the office with some composers/producers.  I was essentially “functioned” out.  The address fiasco was yet another setback in my attempt to “network.”  I also had not realized that the attire requested was “business” attire until half an hour before the event was supposed to start.  Remember, I am an entertainment attorney – not only that, I work in-house for a music company  . . . we are not exactly a buttoned up operation.  Fortunately I had heels in my car to change into so that I wouldn’t have to walk into a room wearing my trusty converse sneakers when everyone else was wearing suits.  The only thing that kept me from backing out was that the new alumni relations director is a friend of mine and she had personally emailed me asking if I could go.  I didn’t want to let her down – otherwise, she might “accidentally” kick me the next time we go to a kickboxing class together (just kidding).

Once there, it was actually a pretty good event.  I saw some faces that I haven’t seen since graduation.  I will say that it was very nice to be able to talk to people in person about what I do and feel like I sort of belonged in the "lawyer" club.  As I am the only attorney in my company, it can get a little lonely.  I was grateful to hear that many other alums have been as bad as I have in relying mostly on facebook to keep up with our old classmates.  In the facebook age, networking in person can seem irrelevant.  You already feel like you know what is going on in a person’s life.  However, I realized through (in person) comments at this event that I tend to post things on facebook that are more relevant to my personal and/or performing life than I do about my professional life.  Perhaps I shall have to change that . . . or maybe I could give this in-person communication thing a try. 

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