Taking the Show Out of Networking

by Emily Pirraglia

28 May, 2013

When I was halfway through the second grade my family moved from Pennsylvania to Houston, Texas. I remember being “the new kid” for the next five months, constantly trying to figure out whom to hang out with, what sports to play and how to become someone’s new best friend. The beginning of third grade was a huge relief for me, because it took me out of the new kid spotlight. I thought the experience of entering a new world where you don’t know if you belong was over.

It was not. Growing up, it dawned on me: networking events are the adult version of being the new kid. Networking leaves me feeling more like the new kid than I ever did in elementary school. I’ve read tips on how to successfully attend networking events, ways to fearlessly network and how to improve your networking strategy, but I just can’t shake the feeling that networking feels so forced. After all, in what other life situation do you find a bunch of advertising/creative/public relations professionals poised to tell you all about their career?

It takes time while networking to forget about trying to network. At events, I always end up giving myself all these paranoid little reminders: “Don’t talk too much. Act natural. Ask people about themselves. Don’t talk too much.” And like that dog in the Beggin’ Strips commercials, the one who always exclaimed to himself, “BACON!” the word “SMILE!” constantly flashes in my mind. Besides leaving me feeling completely neurotic, my reminders make me act stiff, nervous and completely unlike myself.

I just want to enjoy networking. I want meeting new people to be fun. I want to feel like I’m gaining friends, not business cards. Most of all, I want to leave an event knowing that I learned something while helping someone else. This week, I’m hoping to get to do all these things at Social Media Club St. LouisSocial Media Workshop. The workshop will be my first SMCSTL event, so I literally will be the new kid. If you’re going, say hi, and help me realize that networking doesn’t have to feel like a chore.