Social Klutz

Have you ever met someone whose personality puts you instantly at ease? Someone who has you laughing that hysterical, possibly high pitched, not curated for public display laughter that you try to keep under wraps when you have to behave and be courteous around company?

I met someone like that today(three weeks ago, this has been lying unedited on my machine). Nyambura. I was sitting in a strategic corner, somewhere near the front, waiting for a day-long Data Science workshop to begin. Feeling a little self-conscious, wondering why I had not thought to invite someone I know to come along, to be my social crutch, since a glass of wine at 9am would be frowned upon. I can be a social outcast when I feel out of place, perhaps a feeling that some can relate to.

Anyway, Nyambura came through. Just when I had started imaging horror stories and convincing myself that despite the room filling up no one would come to my table and I would be secluded forrEVVEERRRR…or the rest of the day, whichever came first.

“Hi, is this seat taken?”
“No, please, go ahead, have it.”
* Evil laughter from Nyambura *
“…and that was the last anyone ever heard from her.”
* Hysterical laughter from Kathleen *

That interaction went from 0 to 100 in less that three sentences. 90% of what Nyambura says will have you cracking up in laughter, feeling like you have known her forever.

Then, because lightning seems to be in the habit of once in a while striking twice, the third person to come sit at our table is also quite a character in his own right, Graham. If you have encountered the theory of the three people who can get you where you want to be or who you should have in your circle, there’s the connector, the cheerleader and the champion. (Maybe there was a fourth, I am not too sure. I threw away the notebook I wrote those things in and Google is not being co-operative. If you know a possibly fourth C, please let me know?) Now, Graham is a connector. No, a CONNECTOR!
When I told him about the things I have been working on, Graham literally took my hand and introduced me to several people who are working on the same things and would be interested in someone with my skill set! Thanks to Graham, within a week I had two job offers.

You know you have made a good impression with me if you leave me wanting to be you. Graham and Nyambura are winning in my books. Fun fact, 5 years ago when I had just finished high school, Graham kinda hooked me up with my first job! This connector business is hard-coded in his DNA.

It is safe to say the day did not go as awkward as I had imagined it would. Plus, late comers came streaming in and turns out I knew a few of those, even if only in passing.

I am really excited about today(three weeks ago) mainly because networking has always seemed like the impossible. Social anxiety is something that I know, oh too well, especially in crowds where I don’t know anyone, as well as when I’m feeling like the underdog. You know? All this in the face of always hearing, your net-worth is your network. There I am, unable to build a network. Feeling doomed. Net-worth, zero.

Back to the underdog thing, how do you start when you are talking to a CEO of a company in the field that you are interested in getting into? They are going to expect you to ask for their number, right? Or email address. They are going to expect you to ask for a job, or an internship, or a hook-up to opportunities. But what exactly are you giving them in return? How are you improving their net-worth by worming into their network? That is the bigger question, right? What makes you stand out?

I wish I had a definite answer to this question myself, but we all really just need to know what our personal “It-Factor” is. Elevator pitch things. I asked one guy if he would mind terribly if I shadowed him at work and he asked, ‘Why should I let you?’, I froze. Then tried to recover, which he was very nice about, but at least I have started somewhere. With his email and phone number, I can keep at the task of worming my way into his network.(Done!)

Back to what made networking feel much easier than it usually does today(three weeks ago)…Nyambura and Graham aren’t unemployed graduates like me(no longer me for now), but we talked and laughed together like they could have been! This is obvious, but at the end of the day, these guys you would like to network with are really just people too, with their own quirks and oddities, possibly similar crippling fears about social situations, so feel free to talk to them like people. You don’t need a well rehearsed script in your head.

But…maybe an outline would be prudent, heh heh.

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