Can I Bring My Hamster Ball to this Networking Event?

Networking events.  Have you ever been to one?  It’s where you and a bunch of people mingle over booze and snacks to exchange business cards in hopes that one of you can help the other somewhere along the way.

I’ve been to two.  One was by the City Club of Portland.  It was mostly young people and nonprofiteers, probably there to see former PDX Mayor Sam Adams, who is the head of said organization.  The event was held at Dig A Pony, a small bar on SE Grand.  I went with my dear friend, the lovely Ms. KK, and we arrived feeling ready to get our network on.  Except that it was one of the hottest days of summer.  And the bar had no AC.  And the setting sun was blazing down on its west-facing windows.  Once the bar filled up with 150,000 150 bodies, it became like a small sauna.  The air was thick with body heat and desperation.  The sweat was pouring down my body, and not in a sexy music video kind of way, but in a “I-swear-my-makeup-is-melting-down-my-face” kind of way.  I feared I would have to wring out my undergarments like an old Russian woman wrings out the laundry.

We tried to chat it up with a few kids, but after about thirty minutes it became to unbearable, so we left for the bar across the street.

Networking event number two was held by Network After Work at OMSI.  This was a much better venue, and there was a mix of young, old, hipster, and professional.  My boyfriend looked dapper in his shirt and tie despite channeling his inner Burt Reynolds (Movember is just the worst best month), and I passed for someone who could be a business professional.  We walk in and he says to me, “Alright, go get ‘em Tiger.”  I turn to look at him, my anxiety levels skyrocketing.  I hate big crowds.  I hate talking to strangers.  I feel awkward and uncomfortable, like I’m 15 and trying to talk to the cute boy in school, but all I end up doing is sounding like an asshat.  I was so out of my comfort zone that all I wanted to do is swim in a sea of whisky until the event was over.

Slowly I began talking to people, because I realized he wasn’t going to let me get out of this easy.  As the evening wore on, I realized that you really just have to wait until someone ends a conversation to jump in and attack like a vulture getting its scavenger on some rotting animal carcass.  Each time I introduced myself to a new person, it got a little easier.  I felt less awkward, even though each conversation was taxing, to say the least.

I soon realized the unfortunate reality about that networking event, and I suspect of most networking events, is that too many people are there to either sell you their merchandise, or lure you into a selling scheme of their own.  One of the first women I spoke to was peddling Pure Romance.  Another woman, some old wannabe-cougar making eyes at my mustachioed boyfriend (I bet she digged the facial hair), tried to sell me on a cold-calling job at Country Financial.

The last conversation I had was with an older gentleman in the medical tourism industry.  For those who don’t know, medical tourism is where you go overseas for cheap medical and dental procedures.  I imagine something akin to the TV show MASH, except with no English-speaking doctors or feel good laugh track.  We talked about the insurance industry and poverty for a while, and the conversation was flowing fine.  A natural break came, and I tried to extricate myself from the table to find my Tom Selleck-in-training significant other.   This was when he tried to sell me on an open position with his company, which would be me pounding the pavement for the poor unlucky souls who can’t afford their medical bills.  This is the point where I would try and sell them on a medial vacation in the Mexico where they can get full dental implants with a side of Montezuma’s Revenge.

Finally I got out of that situation, found TB (my boyfriend, not tuberculosis) and chided him for not rescuing me from the sales pitch.  “But you looked like you were doing fine!” he said.  I told him never to leave me that long again in the company of a strange old man, and he said next time we’ll come up with a signal.

This begs the question: Do I want there to be a next time?  Do I want to subject myself to another room full of strangers where people are trying to sell to me, or get me to sell for them?  Something tells me I might not have a choice, as I am on the job hunt and need to check out every possible avenue available.  I wish I was a fabulous blogger who could stay and home and write witty entries on my life observations, but breaking into that business and actually doing well is a difficult endeavor.

So I’ll continue to scour Craigslist and Mac’s List and any other list I can get my paws on, and I’ll continue to go to networking events and act like I own the room, when really I just want to crawl under a table and hide.  Such is the life of a job seeker and introvert.  Now, where is my hamster ball?

Until next time ~ BC


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