Networking 101

You know how to carry yourself, with your back straight and your blazer on. You know how to work a room — you with your silky, swinging curtain of hair. You’ve coached yourself not to fiddle with it too much.

You know just how to extract your hand from a too-long handshake. What is this, a tug of war? Your cheeks never flood and your smile never falters; when he walks away, there’s a spring in his step.

You have a clutch of business cards, patiently waiting in your back pocket. The one on your left, to be specific. (Not that you’d ever mistakenly reach for the right.) You feel perfectly at home here, in this gorgeous studio. Brushing shoulders with The High Line.

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I’m going to guess that you don’t know what it’s like, to feel like you’re not quite where you should be. In your life. And yet you know how to put people at ease, instantly. You have a name that Google auto-fills after three letters, but you manage to make everybody feel like a somebody. In the present tense.

When you’re not circling, you’re standing and pivoting and embracing. You’re listening and nodding, countering and laughing. And you’re doing all of this in a pair of shoes that look like February and March, to me.

We don’t have anything in common, you and I. Except that I, too, know that there’s about a half an hour remaining in these shoes.

It took me most of the night to start teetering around on them. Failure used to come early, at events like this. I used to be nothing more than a bundle of nerves. A jumble of crossed and uncrossed arms and legs.

Would you laugh, if I told you that at one point there was a stack of notecards involved? To be flipped through in a blur, an hour beforehand. Isn’t this a beautiful space and I just have to tell you, I absolutely adore your necklace and now tell me a little bit about what you do and how did you get started and if this isn’t too forward, I would love to grab a cup of coffee with you sometime.

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I don’t stumble over hello anymore, I have a better idea of what I should wear, and I have a stronger sense of what you’d like to hear, but I’m still the same girl on the inside. Who fervently wishes that there had been a class on Networking, with a capital N, back in college. And who still feels like poised and professional and promising are three of the more elusive P’s.

But now I know that it will just take me a little while to gather up some confidence. And that I should make my way over to the snack table, in the meantime. I am so completely qualified to stand there.

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I can talk to you at length about that cheese, and those crackers, and that fig spread. I can point you towards the best grapes and make sure that you don’t miss the two-bite cupcakes, down at the end. I know just where the cold beer is and I think it’s 100% okay if you’d like to take down that fruit plate. Singlehandedly.

I might be mistaken for the caterer at some point or another, but it’s totally fine. When the crowd has thinned out some, and I’ve eaten enough for everyone, I’ll seek you out, and we’ll talk, and it will be mostly easy. I’ll go home feeling full — and not just thanks to all of those creamy cheeses.

But, you know, sort of mostly. I’m already ready to follow up with that first one.

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