“OH. MY. GOD. Where do I sit? I don’t know anyone. Oh, she looks like she might be nice. I’ll just plop down next to—NOPE. That seat is saved.
Keep it together, Kristin. Eventually someone will have to talk to you.
Oh look, there’s that guy that I keep seeing everywhere. We’ve made eye contact a couple of times, which practically makes us best friends. I’ll just go over and say hi. Oh wait, he doesn’t remember me. That’s awkward. But he’s totally pretending like he knows who I am. That’s even more awkward. What’s that over there? An empty corner? Perfect. I will just seize this opportunity to go curl up and die in it.”
If you thought that was the inner monologue of an insecure teenager braving the high school cafeteria, think again. That, my friends, is a rare glimpse into what goes through the mind of a fully grown, college-educated, gainfully employed twenty-something who has yet to master the art of networking.
Have you ever gone to a party, only to realize as soon as you walk through the door that the host only invited you to be polite? That’s how I feel every time I enter a catered banquet hall filled to the brim with high-powered go-getters who all seem to know each other. My name may be on the guest list, but my closest friend for the next two to three hours is going to be the waiter and/or the bartender—and that’s only because it’s harder to say something stupid when you’ve got a mouth full of complimentary appetizers.
The firm (aka: the boss) seems to have faith in my ability to learn, so I have been sent to many a luncheon, breakfast and cocktail hour with such words of wisdom as “Get over it!” and “Consider it your professional development for the day.” And she’s right (but don’t tell her I said that). Maybe in this case, practice won’t make perfect— it can only help.