I hate networking.
As an introvert, I hate everything about it. Most people would not assume that I am an introvert because I spend a good portion of my life on stage speaking and sharing my poetry. However, after I am done speaking or performing, indeed my life is a life of solitude with most of my thoughts making their way onto a piece of paper instead of face to face conversations. My writing gives you a direct glimpse of who I am as a person. I do not enjoy talking on the phone or being in the company of a lot of people. When I do spend time with others, I do not find enjoyment in having conversations about small details but would rather discuss more significant issues.
However, I understand that networking is the way the business world works and it is the way most things get done in this world. Someone knows someone that knows someone and that begins the six degrees of separation to your next job, engagement or performance. Professionals get together for networking events after work, eat fancy tapas and sip brightly colored drinks while listening to soft jazz music. They engage in small talk about the weather, where they were born, their mates and children and inevitably, the question will come up, “What do you do?”
I dread that question. I dread going around a room and introducing myself and telling people what I do. Three years ago, I was an administrative assistant. Now, I am a cultural strategist. A year from now I don’t know what my title will be because life is always evolving. Who you define yourself as today could easily be stripped away from you tomorrow. And then who are you? I always wonder if people could not say they were the CEO of a company or a board member of this organization, who would they say they were? If they stopped holding that position today, who are they? Do they even know who they are or are they so entrenched in believing that who they are is the chief executive officer of a company?
I met someone recently at a networking event that asked if I was an artist and I said, “Yes, I am a poet.” They smiled politely and said, “Well that’s good. I did some creative writing years ago.” I smiled and nodded.
“Do you have your poems compiled?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, that’s nice that you have done that.”
I nodded. And then someone who overheard the conversation said, “Hannah is very humble, but you don’t know who you are talking to.”
I felt awkward. The person begins to list my accomplishments something I rarely do because often it is not relevant and I find it can shift the conversation. I want the dialogue to be authentic and what it would be without someone thinking, “Oh I have to treat them this way because they have done ____________________.” After she heard my accomplishments, she said, “Well you didn’t say all that.” I thought, “Should I have to? Can’t we just talk as two people without a need to validate who we are with a list of accomplishments?” I enjoy talking to people because I am curious about who they are. If what they have done in life adds to the richness of that, great. I find the stories of a person’s life interesting and that makes me intrigued and makes me want to work with them. I am always looking to go beyond the surface of, “What do you do?” I want to know who are you?
My title doesn’t make me who I am. At my core, what I was put on this earth to do is write. I am a writer. That is who I am. I am a poet. I am a speaker and a storyteller. I am a mother. I am a woman that likes wine and dancing. I love to sing in the shower. I am a whiz at Family Feud. I love Beyonce. On good days I am confident, loud, witty and humorous. On other days, I am quiet and reserved. Some days I am lonely. I struggle to believe in myself. I question what I am doing? I wonder if there is more out of life? If I am doing what God wants me to do? Am I on the right path? Am I making the most out of my life?
These are the questions that you are never asked when you go around a table to introduce yourself. Sometimes I want to scream, “Don’t tell me what you do! Tell me who you are!” Tell me who you are without the pre-planned, prepackaged elevator speech. Tell me who you wanted to be before the world told you what you had to be. Tell me the story of you. That is the person that I want to know. That is the person that I find interesting. That is the person that I want to network with and not just for what we can do for each other, but for what we can create and do for the betterment of others and this world.
The next time I find myself at a networking event I have decided I am going to say, “Hi. I am Hannah. Chief agitator, shit starter and writer. And who are you? Don’t look at your name tag title. Just tell me who you are, without telling me what you do from 9-5. That is the person that I want to meet.”
Categories: Thoughts, Musings and Reflections