|Career-star in front, me in the back|
I didn't sleep the night before and I was convinced that I had a fever. I used every public bathroom in Auckland's city centre: along the viaduct; at the city library; at the public art gallery. Each time I looked in the mirror, my face appeared to be slowly dripping off.
I bought a flat white. Bad idea. I started hallucinating as I walked down Queen St. I imagined a bout of heart palpitations and collapsing in the next heated room I entered.
Networking is such a trip.
I love meeting people, I love understanding their stories and I love when they like talking to me too. But, when it comes to networking, even networking that I have initiated (which, let's face it, is every time because my career is a baby), I feel my temperature rising.
Everything seems like a good idea the month before when I'm far away from the people I arrange to meet. It almost seems glamorous. Like I'm a socialite arranging high-tea on a hotel rooftop instead of a greasy undergrad with atomic-orange twisty crumbs scattered across my laptop's keyboard.
Then I fly to Auckland to visit my parents and all of a sudden it's the night before a chain of meetings. At this point I re-realise several deeply disturbing things about what I've set out to do.
You see, I don't really have some game-changer product. I'm not sure I have any (convincing) collaboration schemes to push. The 'knock, knock it's my self-brand-rebranded' spiel gets a bit tangled with me. I've also never used an uber, which catapults my entire yo-pro status into question.
I can never reassure myself that everything will turn out okay too because the meetings I organise never quite go to plan.
One time, the person forgot I was coming. Another time, I unexpectedly found myself in a hip, open-plan office where I was immediately confronted by a handful of people I hugely admire. My voice cracked.
After introductions and once the conversation is well underway, I often start to feel my eyelid twitch wildly. That's when I realise that I have been maintaining lengthy, unblinking eye contact. I begin to stutter when the thought crosses my mind that my 'Hey.....you don't need me and I'm probably bothering you...but here I am. Ha ha. Add me on Linkedin!?' might actually sound like my I'm either drunk or hitting on the career-star in broad daylight and in earshot of 20 other people.
Although dazzling life-changing opportunities haven't necessarily followed each meeting, taking time to declare myself and establish connections in different communities has consistently helped me to combat a kind of loneliness. It's that loneliness that creeps in when 'the big life plan' or the trajectory that I thought I was happily travelling on becomes hazy or uncertain. It's the loneliness that comes with moving to the big city.
And so I find myself scrolling through the website of my next career-star.
Email, meet, repeat.