I don’t know how to network. We’re taught, especially in New York, that it’s an invaluable skill and a necessary evil in order to be successful but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not that I’m socially inept. On the contrary, I can practically go to any place and chew someone’s ear off, but when it’s under the pretense of networking, I just shut down.
I feel like a used car salesman whenever I try to make contacts. Whenever someone gives me their card within two minutes of meeting me, it’s as if I’ve been fondled inappropriately from underneath the table. I feel silly because I have nothing to give them in return (business cards were made for me months ago but I never picked them up because I can’t bring myself to be on that Patrick Bateman tip) so I just smile politely and make plans for a follow-up, which usually never happens.
How do you network without feeling like you’ve been dipped in a vat of Vaseline and been given a toupee? It never comes off as natural. Everything is forced and clearly done with the intentions of making a contact that will hopefully prove beneficial to you in the future. It’s so thinly-veiled that we might as well just say to someone, “Look, can you advance my career? No? K, GTFO. NEXT!”
I’m bad at faking it. If I like someone, I can be “on” and make instant friends with them but if I get weird vibes, it’s impossible for me to power through it, even if they’re important. I’m sure this puts me at a disadvantage. I barely have any professional contacts as a result of this, but at least I sleep better at night knowing that everyone in my life is there for a valid reason. I don’t have any noise in my social life, no air kisses to give at some silly party.
I don’t mean to shame people who are excellent networkers though. I don’t think they’re all fake and creepy. They just know how to hustle. In fact, there’s a part of me that’s envious of their ability to make connections wherever they go. They’ll undoubtedly have a smoother time making their way up the job ladder than me. But I honestly believe networkers are born, not made. You either have what it takes to give a stranger the chat equivalent of a handjob or you don’t. I don’t. (HJs are tricky anyways…)