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Your lifestyle, your quirk
I don’t like people.
Actually, that’s not true. I like people just fine. I do not, however, like large groups of people in overly loud environments, because that is just not my thing; however, by the end of this article I’m sure someone will be yelling “She hates people!” so we might as well get it out of the way.
Being a freelance creative professional, I spend a lot of time in my home office. I have friends; I see them as regularly as I can. I work in coffee shops. I bug the handymen. In short, while I enjoy my solitude, I do try to get in regular human contact. Thus, when a friend suggested we go to the inaugural Network After Work event in Orange County, I was all for it. It was about a seven-minute drive for me, and the $10 entry fee covered a drink and food. Can’t go wrong.
Network After Work is sort of like meetup for professionals. You get together with a bunch of fellow businesspeople and trade information, tips, schmooze, etc. It's one part social event, one part job fair. Cool, right?
Lucky Strikes—a bowling alley—hosted the event. The layout was perfect, with a balance of tables and the bar area, and the music selected was pretty good….aside from being entirely too loud. I had to shout to actually be heard. Not really conductive to a good conversation.
I’ll be upfront and say that networking events probably won’t benefit me much in the long run. As I mentioned, I’m not good with big crowds, and being thrust in amongst all those people while music blared reminded me less of a professional gathering and more of a huge dance party. It’s not my scene and I tend to freeze up when confronted with that many faces.
But enough about my own misgivings (they were quickly taken care of with a strong drink). The program is designed to help professionals connect with each other. I went there to meet people and meet some fellow freelancers, or at least folks in the publishing industry; by and large, I ran into job-seekers.
We were grouped by field; when I signed up, I wavered between “Entrepreneur” and “Arts,” finally selecting the latter, because…well, because I’m in the arts. Except I guess not enough people signed up for Arts, and it was dropped from the actual nametag list. When I got there, I settled for media. Not that anyone noticed. People didn’t seem to be schmoozing by field so much as by who had the most drinks (or the lowest-cut top…look, I’m a complete moron when it comes to dressing myself, but even I know you aren’t supposed to show that much boob at a professional event).
The good: I did meet people, in that I spoke to many folks and passed around plenty of cards. I met struggling young people who had just graduated college, a large number of recruiters (I guess it makes sense for them to prowl these events), some folks in finance and marketing, and one very pushy dental insurance representative who walked away from me in mid-conversation when I told her I couldn’t afford an individual dental plan.
(I can’t. The individual dental plans I can afford are not cost-effective for me—they either cover nothing that I actually need or the deductible is just insane. Forget it, I have a credit card.)
There was also that one creeper who tried to feel up my friend, but I guess you get those at any social gathering, professional or not.
Oddly enough, I had the easiest conversations while in the restroom. I think the fact that we were all reapplying our lip gloss or touching up our makeup made us feel like sisters in arms, or something. “I love your eye shadow,” one woman said to me. “Are you meeting a lot of people?”
“Thanks,” I said. “And yes. It’s kind of overwhelming.”
“What do you do?”
“Oh, I’m a freelance writer. I manage an online magazine if you’re looking for some writing work.”
She made a face. “I’m trying to start my own business, but I’m terrible at writing. Do you know anyone in finance?”
“There’s a guy outside who does finance.”
We probably couldn’t help each other much, but we traded cards.
“I got two phone numbers,” said another woman as she emerged from a stall. “This place is better than Match!”
People use networking events to pick up dates? I guess I’m behind on the times.
All in all, I think I handed out ten business cards and accumulated thirteen – people pass them out like candy. I was looking around for possible SQ/Pulsify contributors, but didn’t come across any. So folks, if you’re out there…let me know.
I enjoyed myself for the most part, but as I said before, big groups of strangers aren’t my thing. I think I’d be more inclined to go again if there were more people from my field present. Overall, it was a good experience. I think if you’re good with big groups and are more of an extrovert than an introvert, you’ll benefit from this sort of gathering. If you’re a genuine introvert whose palms get sweaty at the prospect of going to a bar…stay home, dude. This sort of thing will kill you.
Oh, and make sure you bring business cards. Gotta give people some way to remember you!