Friday, April 13, 2007

working on networking

After work yesterday I found myself at a networking event at the Georgetown Club surrounded by many filthy-rich cats. Most of them were really tall, which seemed fitting to me. My boss is the president of the club, and he's also made of money (though not tall), but it doesn't go to his head. In fact, he has referred to himself as a fuck-up a number of times. If a fuck-up is defined as someone whose job requires more personality than specific skill and pays in the $2-3 million range annually, then I am pining to be one. Obviously that self-deprecating comment is his way of recognizing that he fell into the right situation at the right time and appreciates the hell out of it. He's down to earth, human, and real, but I didn't get the impression those surrounding him have a clue. Watching him work the room, telling jokes to the president of PNC Bank or offering advice to a Carlyle Group managing director, I took some good mental notes.

I had a few vodkas there, so those mental notes looked more like mental chicken scratch when I went back to them later on my couch in front of my blog. The next thing I remember is my wife waking me up and helping me upstairs to bed. So much for drunk blogging.

This morning some of it is coming back to me, so I'll try to pour it out here. Thankfully a close friend and co-worker was with me at this thing, so we served as mutual wing-men throughout the night, bailing each other out of some bland conversations. As you can imagine, as is usually the case at these things, most interactions were forced. My supply of sympathy laughter dried up almost immediately, and no matter how much vodka I threw down it, my throat was a desert. Don't get me wrong -- I felt honored to be invited and there were some memorable chats marked by sincere laughter and electricity.

For example, a psychiatrist rocking a white suit and the worst panty line I have ever seen gobbled us up for at least half an hour. I saw no ring on her finger, and it didn't really take long to understand why one would be absent. Honestly, I can't get over that panty line. The. Worst. Ever. Our conversation became so slippery and liberal that I almost mentioned it. At one point she claimed to be 45 but didn't really keep a straight face after dropping that information. She was clearly 10 years older than that, but who can blame a woman for lying about her age? It's not the first or last time.

Despite all of her quirks, she was a welcome distraction (even bummed a cigarette from the bartender for us) from the rest of the exchanges there, most of which seemed to go like this:

Big Wig: (firm handshake, squinting to read my name tag) Hi, RG, I'm BW.

Me: Hi, BW, nice to meet you.

Big Wig: What do you do?

Me: Executive search. And you?

Big Wig: President and co-founder of XYZ Corporation.

Me: Great, where's the bathroom?

Okay, that's rather exaggerated, but the point is most of these cats were out of my league, and the truth is that I suck at networking. Maybe one day I'll be better at it, but that's not exactly near the top of my to-do list. Besides, I am suspicious of people who love to network and attend networking events. I can't pinpoint why exactly, but I am.

That said, it probably comes as no surprise that I bypassed goodbyes by slipping out a back door and disappearing into the side streets of G-town, not a single business card weighing me down.

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