Networking. When I was too timid I got it wrong and when I was too zealous, even worse. In the past I have always been very backward in coming forward, to my detriment. On the rare occasions I have been introduced to someone useful, a potential ‘contact’ you might say, I have been rendered as speechless and as charismatic as my pet goldfish.
I decided I had to change, but it proved difficult. The turning point was a workshop at The Guardian, the centre piece of which was a ‘networking lunch’ – a revolting premise. The enjoyment of food should not be polluted by careerist plotting. However, squeezing a lukewarm sausage roll for support, I edged my way around the trestle table and tried to avoid eye contact whilst I formed a strategy. I bottled it, so my strategy became talking to the friends I had made in the morning and avoiding detection by any of the Guardian people at all costs. After ten minutes, my cunning strategy had crumbled. The recruitment woman was on to me. ‘I’ve been watching you and you haven’t moved! You already know these people! Get moving! What are you waiting for? Who do you want to talk to? What are you interested in?.’ She had smelt fear and she was not going to let me go without a tussle. I was led to someone more useful.
It was going rather well, conversationally, and I was relieved. However, moments later the lioness was back. She could not understand why I had stagnated and hit another networking brick wall. She ushered me round again and this was repeated until that lengthy hour ended. ‘So, how many email addresses did you get?’, she asked excitedly. Should I lie? I didn’t have time. My hesitation was enough. She could see that I was hopeless.
A few weeks later, I was at a drinks party full of potential contacts. Knocking back tepid Sauvignon Blanc, I was galvanized and indestructible. As tipsy as I was, I had no joy with a doddery Daily Mail columnist, who seemed wholly perplexed by the phrase ‘graduate recruitment’. He had managed to register that they did occasionally have some work experience drones milling around the office, but did not know how they arrived there. Across the room, my father seemed to be having more success. For reasons unfathomable, a woman from Harpers Bazaar had taken a shine to him. The second I heard the magazine title, I sent him back over to her. He was not keen. I insisted.
In effect, I pimped out my own father. Unable to network myself, I had sent my own father into a divorced harlot’s gaudy den. I felt guilty, but not guilty enough. I left my father to meet my friends, with strict instructions to get her number. The following day, he threw a business card at me. Bingo. What a price he had paid though, he looked so disturbed. He had not wanted to offend her and had ended up taking her out to dinner, during the course of which she had made several ‘lewd suggestions’. The mind boggles. He did look traumatized. All I can say is that I’m sorry. Next time, I’ll have to take the hit myself; if there are any lewd suggestions to be made, they should be made to me. Sorry Dad.