As an introvert, I dislike going to networking events. Going to them is like eating parsnip, getting them stuck in my front teeth, then suffering from diarrhea and constipation. Yes, it is that bad.
At my third job, I was working in the sales department of a media company. My plan was to leave after one year to then work in the producing department. The plan was working out great, I just had to swap out one year with ninety-nine years. A friend of mine lit a fire up my behind and suggested that I should be doing everything possible to leave if that is what I wanted.
I decided that eating parsnip should be enjoyable and getting them stuck in my front teeth and suffering from you know what should also be enjoyable. So, I signed myself up for a networking event that was hosted by my company’s employee resource group for women, HERE. The event was a speed networking one where managerial level female employees would speak one-on-one with other female employees who were of much senior positions. I didn’t quite qualify to attend because I wasn’t yet at a managerial level. So I slipped the organizers a five-hundred-dollar bill and they agreed to let me be a volunteer to help guests check in. They neither confirmed nor denied if I could hang around after check in was complete. I was fine with this ambiguity because my buddy Denzel Washington said, “If you hang around the barber shop long enough, sooner or later you will get a haircut.”
I was sitting at a table, with four other women who were networking with among themselves. The elevator pitches and self-introductions were complete so they started talking about random topics and I joined them.
“I was kind of surprised I got a reply, I didn’t think there was any live person reading emails.” I shared about how I became a volunteer for the event – by emailing the employee resource group, HERE. I omitted the slipping them money part. I aimed to show nothing but character integrity, however fabricated that may be.
“Well, of course, there are real humans reading them.” A lady who sat two inches to the right of me responded, in a slightly sarcastic but not insulting tone of voice. Later, I found out that she was the communications chair for the employee resource group, responsible for reading and answering e-mails. So, she was probably that “live person” I had mentioned.
I then enthusiastically brought up about how I was looking for a female mentor and e-mailed BET Nework’s CEO, Debra Lee to ask her if she could be mine. I concluded about how I was surprised that I never heard from her.
“Well, you never ask someone to be your mentor,” said same lady, who still sat two inches to the right of me.
She wasn’t done, “And for someone like her, she probably has assistants filtering through her e-mails.”
I guess this lady was questioning my common sense or lack of? Her direct and concise responses caught my laughing bugs. I found her to be quite entertaining. So I did what I usually did: I giggled and lightly hit her left shoulder with my beautiful hand.
Thirty seconds later (she talks fast), she said she could introduce me to a manager who has an opening on her team. Lady Direct (let’s refer to her as that) said I should go find her before I leave. I ignored her and drifted to the wine table. Next thing I know, Lady Direct brings over the manager. I quickly and charmingly gave her my verbal bio, while my armpits became sweaty.
The following week, I interviewed for that job opening. I happened to mention all of this to my cube mate. She happened to be former colleagues with the manager so I slip her a five hundred-dollar bill and she put in a good word for me. Two months later, I was hired and started working at Lady Direct’s department. I guess Denzel Washington was right, damn I really did get a haircut.
From there on, I have attended a few more networking events. I still compare them to eating parsnip, and getting them stuck in my teeth then suffering from diarrhea and constipation. Attending them have not landed me any other interviews or any other jobs. I got my next job by asking Lady Direct for leads and she connected me to the hirer. And no, Lady Direct isn’t a head hunter nor does she work in Human Resources. She is simply Lady Direct.