Couple of days back, I left work and instead of heading home, walked across the hall to my school where a networking social was on. We were told to bring business cards and if possible bring a friend. Dismissing it as another of the school’s marketing ploys, I went empty handed and by myself. Signing up at the entrance, the person at the reception asked for a business card. I said I had none. Smiling she scratched my name on a piece of paper with the words “Business card” beneath it and dropped it into the fishbowl for a drawing for the door price.
Realizing my handbag had an odd length strap, I struggled to hold it close to me without being conscious of it the whole time. The smell of hot pasta was appetizing. I walked down the aisle to a room from which good smells emanated. There were a bunch of people in there already. Spying couple of my classmates, I said Hi! and made straight to the food. Plate in hand with a couple of long cut carrots and some dip, a few pieces of pita bread, I turned to see the admissions director next to me. Smiling pleasantly he enquired jokingly about my commute and even got my name right. I was thrilled. Exchanging pleasantries, I moved to join another group. I couldn’t help noticing how much easier it felt this time around. I did not feel awkward. Even if I did not know any one, I was content to stand plate in hand by myself observing the crowd. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the classroom where I went twice a week. Perhaps, I was getting used to making conversation now.
Looking achingly at the pasta but not quite sure if it had meat in it, I looked around to see if I could find someone to help me. Walking over to one of the co-oridinators I asked if she knew if there was vegetarian food available. She pointed to the caterers. Smiling on my way back, I found more than two dishes which looked inviting had no meat in it. Helping myself, I almost walked into a 7 ft tall guy. Apologizing, I looked way up. He bent down reading my name tag and enveloped his giant hand over mine. Introducing himself, he asked who I was and where I came from. The words slid easily and soon enough I was circulating around the room getting to know people and enjoying myself.
Hearing someone clear their throat for an announcement I saw the crowd had cleared the center for a presentation of some kind. The tall guy was from Dale Carnegie Associates and they gave us a 20 minute talk on how to network effectively. The presenter Mike took me in by his energy and the ease with which he introduced the topic and involved us. Presentation done, the door prizes were announced and for once, I was the first one to be called. I picked a nice ceramic coffee mug from the assortment of gifts they had in the bag.
Walking out later that evening stomach happily full, I envied a few people that I met who seemed to enjoy what they did. Be it co-ordinate the social or present networking tools. I even went up to one and asked her how she got to do what she did. Talking to her I realized while there is a certain amount of preparation meeting opportunity, it takes courage to believe in your own self. To be aware of what is it that you do really well and enjoy it as well and then aggressively pursue it as an career option. Even if it means getting out of your comfort zone and starting all over. Simple as it seems, when I try to apply it to me personally, it feels daunting.
Or perhaps, like networking socials themselves, the idea of pursuing my dream will get easier with time.