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The Social Network and the Art of the Hobnob

Social network by Dani Alvarez - Pyragraph
Image by Dani Alvarez.

A few weekends ago I attended a party for the sole purpose of “networking.”

The promise of sangria helped, yes, but mostly I went to meet a friend of friend who is involved in what I soon discovered is a very niche form of a career that I will probably not pursue.

Let’s be real, no one likes small talk. If you do you should be taken to a lab for testing and cloning immediately.

The party was lovely, the friend of a friend was lovely, the other non-friends that I didn’t speak to I’m sure were lovely too, but this whole ordeal got me wondering:  is there ever a moment you should not be actively networking? How different is networking from friendship? And when does said friendship/networking relationship finally pay off in the way everyone expects networking to? (Which is fame and fortune.)

Most of my “networking” experiences have not amounted to much, so I did a bit of research to see what I might be doing wrong. To start I Googled, “How to successfully network.” Google autofill wanted me to know instead, “How to successfully Netflix and chill.” Good start if you ask me.

Here’s what I actually learned:

Another word for network is “hobnob.”

Dictionary.com tells me that networking is about mutual assistance, business lunches, cultivating common interests and staying true to your frat. (That last point wasn’t actually in there, but it was implied.) I hate the word “cultivate” unless it’s used to talk about crops, and all this “who you know” business is starting to really get to me. Every time I even think about networking opportunity events I cringe and imagine small-talk to the death. I hate small talk. But let’s be real, no one likes small talk.  If you do you should be taken to a lab for testing and cloning immediately.

The first encounter with another human will always be awkward.

At one point I actually left my apartment (gasp!) to go to a networking breakfast (double gasp!!). I was worried about the previously mentioned small talk, but luckily a few successful people spoke smart words for the majority of the time. I heard a lot of stuff there about how it’s smart to order soda with lime instead of alcohol at business gatherings, how people who are smart don’t like being told you want to “pick their brain,” and that a lot of smart creatives actually use LinkedIn? LinkedIn, guys. The social media platform that asks you to “endorse” the skills of people you barely knew in college by clicking a big yellow button.

But seriously, I did learn that events are always awkward, especially pre-coffee ones, and for everyone, not just me.  So when you feel awkward, just remember that the person you are talking to probably does too, and it’s okay to have a drink or two or four.

I don’t know who Steven Forbes is, but I know he’s rich and supposedly smart so we should listen to him.

Forbes Magazine has a list of eight points that tell me the “right way” to network. If there really is a right way I assume that Stevie knows it, but actually, only two of his eight points are helpful to me, because I am an artist, and not “in Finance,” as they say. Forbes says it’s important to establish connections before you really need them. And, if you can’t work for the person/company you are currently in discussion with, ask if you can facilitate a connection between said present company and a third party. Basically, Stevie’s saying to stop being selfish and promote your friends too.

And with that advice, we’re right back to: Stay true to your frat bros.

Justin Timberlake was in The Social Network.

This is pretty irrelevant, but I forgot he was and thought I should remind you too just in case.

I still can’t tell the difference between friendship and networking.

Facilitating connections between other people makes you a valuable member of business and society, which will eventually, theoretically, and if you believe in karma, pay off. Even if someone can’t use your services in the present moment, they will remember you later as the person who did something for them when you didn’t have to. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but this all sounds to me like a long-winded way of saying: make some friends, keep your friends and use your friends for their professional connections. In a word: friendship.

So I guess I’ll keep flexing that good friendship (or is it hobnobbing?) muscle.

And uh, friends? How ’bout you too? I need a new job.

Stay tuned for my findings on how to successfully Netflix and chill.

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