I did it. Last night I voluntarily attended a networking event and I went alone. When I told this news to my friends I was met with lmaos and one “You go girl’!” (That “you go girl” was from my straight male best friend). I’m not saying that I am anti-social, but I do have an aversion to ice breakers and fake pleasantries, which is what I thought a networking event was. I signed up for this event the day my internship ended. You see, I subscribe to a wonderful internship email list from NY Creative Interns and finally decided to accept the creative mixer they politely reminded me about all month.
Dressed business casual, I found myself in a room full of strangers settled in groups, laughing and mixing. I had to make a name tag before I could mingle. A simple task at the most. Disaster struck! All the sharpies were out of sharpie juice. I hoped no one would notice and I just kept picking up different sharpies, desperately hoping that one would take to the blank paper. Turns out that I was writing on the slippery part that is left over when you peel off the adhesive part of the name tag. That is why the sharpies did not work. Stumbling but not completely falling, I engaged in a mental check list. Business cards? Check. Hand lotion for non-ashy handshakes? Check. Elevator pitch, just in case? Check. Making sure I have passion and drive in my eyes? Squints a little bit. Check.
I scanned the room and headed straight to the food table. It would look lame if I was standing alone without something in my hands/mouth. Food invites conversation, I think. Anyways, it worked. With strawberries and ginger ale in hand I talked to three people and one of those people ended in a LinkedIn connection.
There was a speaker at this event. She works at AOL in cause marketing. Cause marketing is the intersection of charity and advertising. Basically, AOL spends millions of dollars each year to provide pro-bono advertising through celeb videos and features on their website to non-profits. The reason they do this is because this speaker saw a hole that needed to be filled in their company and presented the idea to her boss. The speaker was funny, succinct and sincere. For once, a speaker that didn’t seem like they were bullshitting their audience. Best thing about the speaker: she needed a PAID intern and I felt qualified. Marketing experience? Check. Volunteer experience? Check. Passion for social causes? Check.
I played it cool (by which I mean I gushed over her presentation and role in her company) and we exchanged business cards. I emailed her my resume today. Feeling good and ambitious, I approached and talked to people. I will admit that I did a little name dropping–”OMG SO THIS ONE TIME I WAS REPORTING FOR AN EVENT AND I MET OPRAH. SHE TOUCHED MY SHOULDER. YEA, THE RIGHT ONE. YOU CAN TOUCH IT IF YOU WANT. ARE YOU SURE? BECAUSE I AM TOTALLY FINE WITH YOU TOUCHING IT. ANYWAYS, YOU KNOW MEETING OPRAH WASN’T A BIG DEAL. SHE JUST SAID I WAS THE FUTURE. BLAH BLAH BLAH.”
I met someone from the midwest who just moved to NYC and we reminisced about life in places where the roads are paved with cows and cornfields. Then I talked to a co-founder of a startup who just happened to need someone to handle her company’s social media/blogging.
The conversation went like this:
Person: What do you want to do, like when you graduate?
Me: Hmm, in what capacity?
Person: What do you want to be paid to do?
Me: Well, I really want to work in online content in the journalism spectrum. Now, I work in social media, blogging and–
Person: You handle social media? We need someone to handle our social media! We are still in beta mode but I want to get started on that. I have been trying to do it myself but it takes a lot and it’s not like I’m passionate about.
Me: I’m passionate about social media!
Then I casually listed my skills and experience, we exchanged business cards and I have an interview tomorrow. Fun fact: 70% of jobs are received through networking. I hope I will be a part of that 70% tomorrow. What I thought was going to be an ice breaking nightmare turned out to be a casual evening of conversation that got me an interview. Sometimes you have to get out of our comfort zone to get what you want.