Networking (v): 1. to establish communication links with other people as a means of exchanging ideas, information and useful contacts;
2. schmoozing and oozing general creepiness at functions when most (normal) people are quite happy to be left alone to their own devices.
Last week I attended a ‘networking’ function organised by the Law Society of WA’s Young Lawyers Committee.
Aside from the fact I was totally exhausted (urgh, friggin‘ 9-5; I’m usually failing to retain normal levels of consciousness by Wednesday mornings, and this was on a bloody Thursday night) I really enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with people from high school and law school who’ve also entered the legal ‘profession’, as aptly described by The Hon Chief Justice of WA, Wayne Martin.
The CJ’s speech was pretty funny, and although it was a little long since he’d spent the first 5 minutes talking about how he knows we must get bored from long speeches from old grey-haired dudes when we would rather be drinking and catching up with mates, at least it was semi-inspirational and entertaining.
The main speaker was a chap called Ron Gibson, Managing Director of Go Networking. Apparently he was there to impart some wisdom and ‘networking’ tools and tips which may put us young’uns in a better position for advancing our careers.
The invite to the function describes him as a “networking guru”. A google (v) of the guy reveals that this he is
the country’s foremost [self-established] authority in the field and subject of business networking – the art and skill of forming and cultivating those all-important business connections. Ron’s presentation offered proven techniques and approaches that you can use to network effectively and socialise successfully in any situation, to network within your industry for maximum effect and to cultivate your new contacts into profitable, long-term business partnerships.
I (and I may speak on behalf of a significant portion of the attendees) would describe him as a bit of a git, but I suppose he’s just doing his job, and I shouldn’t diss what people have to do to put food on their families.
But I just as I don’t want to have to deal with some drug dealer trying to peddle me WizzFizz while I’m chatting to my mates, I’d rather not have to listen to some motivational-life-coach-guy try to teach me about what I should and should not do at parties when I just want to be chatting to my mates.
Because that’s what this networking guy was trying to do.
One of the blogs I’m really enjoying at the moment made some interesting comments about networkers the other day:
Networkers always struck me as overenthusiastic people, the sort of people who want to be your friend right away. They want to know everything about you, where you were born, what your first boyfriend’s name was, what color your childhood blankie was and whatever happened to it. They come off a little creepy, and remind you vaguely of your mother at the dinner table the first time you brought a boyfriend home.
Sounds horrible, dunnit? Well. It could be worse. Some old guy could be standing on a podium trying to tell you that this is what you should be doing every day if you want to get anywhere in life now that you’re out of the playpen that was university. Yep, that stuff was essentially the gist of what Mr Networking Guruji was trying to get us to do to improve our Brand Recognition rating or something. Not many people were impressed.
Tei at Rogue Ink goes on to explain that she now likes networkers despite the fact they are freaks because they are “lovable, wonderful, indispensable” variety of freaks. But, I guess since I haven’t had a networker help to set me up with helpful people who may want to give me bags of money/opportunities, I still consider them, and the whole concept of what they do, to be just plain annoying.
It just seems so smarmy to “network” in the way he was trying to “teach” us.
There were several times during Gibson’s “lesson” when he could not be heard over the rabble of people who had lost interest after he explained that his credentials for teaching young lawyers how to network stems from his being the step-grandson of the founding partners of the Perth firm Gibson & Gibson.
While it was pretty embarrassing to have him try to talk over us like he was a teacher trying to re-gain the attention a rowdy class of Year Fours (especially when the Chief Justice was in the room observing it all*) it made me wonder a couple of things about this whole business networking thing as it relates to us i.e. Kids These Days.
Firstly, does all this schmoozing actually work, and secondly, because it seems to have worked for people who are currently In the business world (if it hasn’t why the hell are we still hearing about it?? Have they all been duped???), do we really have to learn how to be a schmaltzy tool, or can we get by doing things our way?
By our way, I mean the Gen Y way. I realise that that the Baby Boomers in management and our Gen X co-workers hate us, and I’m sure we can learn a few tips from our elders, but I have a tip for them too. If they want to impress us, in terms of trying to recruit us or offer their services to us, they should bloody stop talking at us and rather talk with us.
Because we’re know-it-alls and we freaking know it. So if someone tries to treat us like idiots, we’ll probably lose respect for them quick-smart. Which definitely what happened the other night.
So back to my ponderences on networking… what I was wondering the other night was whether we really need to be taught about making small-talk and the importance of ‘making contacts’. It just seems to me that we’ve grown up having those sorts of ideas as a given, and we’re pretty capable of introducing ourselves to friends-of-friends, or even randoms at parties or gatherings, and keeping in touch. And not to mention our aptitude at using the internet to establish and “grow” our network connections.
By the way, I can’t seem to find this “networking guru’s” website, so I think his Brand Recognition efforts totally suck on the whole internet issue.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being a Gen Y brat. Thanks to the YLC for organising the night; I’m sure if we were less full of ourselves we would’ve gotten more out of it.
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*Speaking of the CJ. At one point in the night, when I managed to find myself in a little group with a fellow Judge’s Associate and His Honour, he tried to introduce himself, as any good, nice, polite person would do when seeing someone they’ve never met before standing an the group you’re chatting with. “Hi, Wayne Martin” he said, extending his hand out. “Yes, I know you, Sir,” I replied, shaking his hand, “I work for you.” He looked down at my name tag, which had “Supreme Court of WA” under my name, and went “Oh right”, clearly not having any clearer idea of who I was. Me thinks I need to work on my Brand Recognition. Or at least spend more time in the main building.