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I was always shy as a child. I’d duck for cover behind my parents’ legs whenever an adult I didn’t know very well came over to try and say something to me. I don’t know if it was because of excessive coddling or if being born shy is an actual condition, but whatever it was, I did not especially enjoy talking to people as a young lad.
As I got into high school and came into myself a little more, I was able to get out of my shell a bit and transform into the self-serving, narcissistic dickhead that you see on the internet and in real life today. I no longer quiver or hide behind people when a stranger comes up to me at a bar or a party. I can hold my own in these situations if need be.
But when it comes to the dreaded networking event, I could not be worse off than I am right now.
At my age, a networking event no longer means going to some job fair hungover with other juniors and seniors, aimlessly walking around amongst poster boards and recruiters.
A networking event now means hitting a rooftop bar, fundraiser in an office, banquet hall, or swanky coffee shop to converse with other people who may or may not be in the same professional field as I am.
There is always a table in the back or maybe even a bartender, where a choice of Blue Moon, Stella Artois, or unidentified red and white wines are being served. We all have name tags on, and if you’re lucky you may even get to eat some bacon wrapped scallops or cheese cubes.
It’s one big hellscape for me. What happens when I go to one of these things is as follows: I’ll walk up to the front table, put my name down on a sticker and place it on my left lapel. I’ll then stand there for a moment, scanning the room looking for familiar faces that I can latch onto. One of two things then happens.
If I find someone that I do know, I’ll go over, say my hellos and then say something along the lines of “I’m going to go grab a beer.” I’ll then latch onto this person. I probably won’t even meet anyone else at the networking unless someone comes up to us to introduce themselves.
I don’t know what it is but, as soon as I get into one of these events, I clam up. I’m not my normal self. I start thinking way too hard about what is and isn’t appropriate at a place like the one I’m at and I just come off as awkward. When this is the situation, I’m gone after an hour at the most. I’ll say goodbye to the one person I actually know at this godforsaken event and go home to lick my wounds. I’ll take my tie off in my room and say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Next time will be different.” I know that this is not true but I say it to myself anyway.
If I can’t find anyone I know (which is the case more often than not) I go straight for the bar. I’ll stand there awkwardly shuffling my feet and slowly sipping my beer, again scanning the room for anyone. Literally, anyone that I may or may not know.
I nurse the beer. I cradle it as I pretend to check my phone for texts that aren’t there. I’ll hit the bathroom and go pee even though I don’t have to pee.
Maybe afterward, I’ll grab another beer. This is right around the thirty-minute mark, and it’s at that time that I’ll set the second beer down on a table nearby and sneak quietly out a side door.
I just can’t do networking events. I’m bad at it even though I force myself to go every so often. It almost feels like a middle school dance in that men and women are talking amongst themselves. No one is getting super rowdy because everyone is walking on eggshells.
I revert back to behavior I only exhibited as a small child, except in these instances I don’t have a parents leg to cling onto and hide behind. .
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