So, I was getting a lot of questions about networking from the Revolutionary Club community (thanks community! You are awesome), and it got me thinking about times I’ve networked…
Yes, even I, a career coach and someone who is confident networking, have crashed and burned a time or two. 🙂
Networking is an important skill.
Having a great network is how you find out about jobs that aren’t listed yet, how you get information about new opportunities (or careers), and how you get inside information on salary and other really important things that will make your work happy.
I also think that networking can be really hard at times.
It’s not easy to go out and put yourself in new and potentially uncomfortable situations.
It can be difficult to figure out what to say, how to introduce yourself in a way that is interesting, and have a real conversation with a stranger.
And sometimes, it’s just embarrassing. To that point, I have a story I want to share with you…
Here’s how the story goes:
I was meeting with someone who does PR for a big website, just to say hello, pick her brain and enjoy a cocktail. We’d been talking over twitter and having some fun, but I had never met her in person.
I did my due diligence, read up about her, and made sure to check out the photo of her on the website, twitter etc, so I’d recognize her when I walked into the bar. Unfortunately, the photos I found were small and not very clear, but I thought to myself: “No worries – she’s blond and I’ll *probably* recognize her.”
I was running late, and that stressed me out. I ended running into the bar trying to straighten my hair and adjust my lipstick while I looked for her. You know, that “stand in the door of the room trying to appear cool while you squint and make awkward eye-contact with strangers” look that is so attractive :).
Eureka! I spotted her at the bar and wandered over.
Tall, blond, obviously waiting on someone. Definitely her. So, I walked up and said: “Hey!” (Momentary brain-lapse made me forget her name). She looked at me for a second and then said: “Hey” back. Kind of friendly, kind of confused. I went on to say something like: “I’m sorry I’m late, but I’m so glad we are meeting!”
And then, a random third person walked up and joined us. I was surprised, she hadn’t mentioned anyone else coming, and so…I wasn’t sure what to do. But hey – I was there to network, right? So I stuck out my hand and said: “Hey! I’m Christie, nice to meet you!” and she looked confused but said: “Hello. I’m [REDACTED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT]” and then they both sort of stared at me.
Confused, I said: “You are Nikki, right?”
(And you can probably see this coming)
She said: “Who?”
I said: “Nikki…Oh no.”
Here’s how the story goes wrong…
Yep, I’d met the wrong person. I really regret attempting to hug her now.
The real Nikki was at another part of the bar in a different room wondering where the *heck* I was, and why I was so late. I apologized in a flurry, and walked away quickly.
I was not a high moment for me. But, I had two choices: Let it bother me, or just laugh about it.
You can probably guess what I chose, and my first words to the real Nikki were: “You’ll never guess what just happened to me…”
I share this story for a few reasons:
1. Everyone (even Oprah), will make mistakes when they interact with people. It happens to all of us.
2. I could have beaten myself up about it, or worried about being a failure/creepy person for awhile and let that drag me down, but I didn’t. Why? Because you will go to networking events, or meet someone for a coffee, and things will go wrong. And that’s okay because it happens. Nobody (even Oprah) is perfect.
3. Sometimes the most embarrassing moments will turn into a great lesson or maybe just a great story, and either one is okay, as long as you keep putting yourself out there. So – go out and make some more great stories! (After all, I’ve already gone out and hugged a stranger for you – so really, how bad can it be?).
4. Try and find a good photo of someone before you meet with them :).
I’ve put myself out there and I’d love to invite you to do the same. I’d love to know in the comments: Have you ever made a crazy networking error? Have you had a hilarious encounter while out schmoozing? And – did anything good or fun come of it?