When networking isn’t working

Getting-the-Most-out-of-Your-Networking-Event-SB

Why your networking opportunities are a waste of time

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. November 11, 2015

Remember the last school day in high school when you, your classmates, and everybody else gathered in the foyer to sign yearbooks? Remember how you tried to accumulate as many signatures and H.A.G.S. (have a great summer) as possible? Remember how empty that feeling was after? That is how I often feel when I go to networking events.

Ask any working professional and they will tell you that networking, at some point, contributed to their success. But where and how they network? That they seldom share. I’m far from a successful professional, but I think I know when my time is being wasted. My time is being wasted when I’m not making any genuine connections. Like those speed-dating events that people do to find romance, I feel that same way with attending networking events in search for employment. If there is no connection in five minutes, I slowly start sneaking away.

If you approach a networking event for your sole benefit, i.e. employment opportunities, you’ll ultimately fail. Rarely are employers hiring at these events, and if they are, you entering their lives spontaneously and then disappearing a few minutes later will not go far in influencing them to hire you. Instead, approach a networking event with an additional purpose. Ask yourself: What would I like to learn at this event? Product development? Marketing strategies? Sales tactics? Whatever. Rather than showing off your smarts and woefully impressing people who don’t care, gain knowledge by communicating with those who have more experience than you.

One thing I found really useful at a networking event was to have a project going in. If I had to report on the event, what where the topic be? What can I wrap my story around? Let’s say I was at a tech-startup event (I’ve been to a lot of those), I could write about the hardest aspect of building or working at a startup company. Then I probe, I interview, I meet people who work at those companies, and I asked them the question: “What’s the hardest thing about working at a startup company?” I’m gaining knowledge. I’m getting results. At the end of it all, I have a collection of interviews and maybe even an article with knowledgeable insights. What I decide to do with that post is up to me. I can share it via my own network and up my Klout score, I can keep it for myself, or heck, I can send it to those who I have interviewed and see if they would be interested in the content. I have done more than network; I have made a connection. I’ve gone the extra distance and shown my spunk.

Networking events are a waste of time if you are collecting business cards. Business cards are worth less than Pokémon cards if you don’t reengage with the person. They’ll forget about you as quickly as you’ll forget about them.

Give me give me

Illustration by Ed Appleby

What to do when you reek of desperation

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 4, 2015

We all want something. We all have objectives and goals. That’s good. That’s the fuel that propels us forward in life. However, there are times when we’ve been sitting idle or maybe even fallen behind. We end up thinking that good things will never happen, and that we’ll never get back to where we were or achieve what we want. It could be money, romance, competition, or personal pursuit—when we put all our chips down on the table, we can’t help feeling desperation creep up.

Our desperation is a response to our stress. It’s useful in a life-or-death situation. When we are desperate for food, for example, we would go to incredible length to feast. There’s nothing stronger than the will to live. But when it comes to being desperate in a social interaction, such as a job interview or a first date, our undeniable hunger may be incredibly off-putting.

Nobody likes being around people who are desperate. Nobody wants to work with someone who is on edge about every task, or go out to dinner with someone who has an agenda. Most of us want to relax and not feel our heart beating out of our chest. Now, I understand that simply saying “Don’t be desperate” is not the solution. It’s not a switch you can turn off and on. It goes deeper than that.

Desperation is rooted in fear. You fear that you’ll be in debt forever. You fear that you’ll be alone forever. You fear that all your hard work will be for nothing. To lose the smell of desperation on you, you need to wash the fear off yourself, and be reminded that what progress you are going to make will be gradual. Do people win lotteries? Sure. But you cannot bank on that. What you need to do is accept that you’ll have to take baby steps towards your goals. You’ll feel less desperate if your tasks seem achievable to begin with.

Alternatively, you can just forget about it. So you are single, and worried that you’ll be alone forever. You’ve gone on dates, but there’s no magic and it just didn’t click. Stop dating for a bit. Take a class. Go on a trip. Meet new people. Pivot away from the problem and work on something else for a bit. Build your confidence back up in something else and then dive back into dating after.

Nowadays, we are not faced with deadly situations. Our own fears are constructed inside our own brain, and that’s where they fester. When you wonder why you are striking out, it could be because the people around you can smell your desperation. Get clean, relax, and know that you’ll get many chances. But before you take another one, maybe take a break first.