Networking Into a New Job--Cowbell Optional

April 2009
Networking, for me, is a double-edged sword. I hate the small talk and self-promotion, the glint in our eyes as we scan someone to see if we can get something from them. I hate the sudden competition as a fellow freelancer says, "Oh, I write about finding bargains around Denver, and I used to closely follow the microbrew industry. On the side I play classical music." You eye this person and look at the editor you're both hoping to impress, trying to figure out how to say that you do all the same stuff, except way, way better. And yet networking is responsible for nearly every job I've ever gotten--especially the really good ones. Which is why I recommend checking out tonight's Connections Network event hosted by the Young Professionals Group, featuring Mayor John Hickenlooper. The gig is at the Exdo Annex (formerly the Kiva Event Center), 3090 Downing St., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It's open to the public, and the cost is $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. (Also, in case you're wondering, the "young" denotes that ages 21-39 are welcome.) You'll get appetizers, a free drink, access to a cash bar, and a chance to hear Hickenlooper talk about being a young professional in Denver. But there are always certain rules at networking events, so let's go over a few I found online and how they relate with my vast (cough) experience in the networking world. Rule 1: Remember me? When someone asks you what you do, say something memorable. This way it is easier for the other person to think of you when they meet someone who needs your product or service. Jennie's take: This is the exact reason I carry my bongos and my cowbell with me everywhere I go. Someone asks me about my musical experience, and I immediately assume my best Will Ferrell impression. (The costume is optional.) Rule 2: Don't take up too much of the other person's time. 
Have an agenda and keep the meeting on track. Nothing scares people more than the prospect of someone eating up a lot of their time. Jennie's take: Okay, guilty as charged. When I was in New York City doing regular journalism networking events, I had just turned 21 and discovered cranberry vodkas. After a few too many of these tasty treats I regaled an editor at The New Yorker with tales of hitchhiking through Yellowstone National Park and learning to fly fish.

Rule 3: If the free drink is flowing, remember to drink with caution. Dancing on the table may get you a few laughs, but little else. Know your limits and stick to them. Another trick of the trade when it comes to drinking is to always hold your drink in your left hand--that way your right hand is always free for shaking.

Jennie's take: My goal is simply this: Don't be the drunkest guy (or gal) in the room. Some of us who have crippling social anxiety feel better after a beer or three, but you'll be safe as long as there is one other person laughing a little too loudly or sloshing their wine on the floor. You can meaningfully raise your eyebrows at your companions and feel justified as you take another sip. However, it is a wonderful time to remember whether certain drinks have undesirable effects on you. One of my best girl friends weeps when she drinks white wine. I beat people up after whiskey. Both drinks are probably best avoided when we're scoping the potential job market.