Tonight I went to a sort of networking event. To be honest, networking events are not my favorite. Somehow, my usual sparkling personality (what?) becomes shy and awkward in front of all the beyond-competent and qualified people I get to meet. Plus, my school environment fosters this casual sort of… y’know… How should I say, competition? between the students. It’s always about the numbers, the tangibles. How many interviews have you done? What’s your GPA? How many business cards did you get? How much is your signing bonus? What’d you get on the midterm?
So, my friend Kyle invited me to this networking thing and I said yes, not expecting much. Not because I don’t want to work there (God, please yes I do!!!!!!!!), but because I’ve been to enough events to know the drill; suits, resumes, fancy cheeses that I can’t eat because of my lactose intolerance, awkward handshakes, etc. Don’t get me wrong; I always try really hard at these events, just because I have always tried my hardest. But in the end, I find it so draining. First, it’s pretty damn draining to walk around in heels to go anywhere. Second, because I was trying so hard to be like everyone else in my school. I was trying to go to the networking events that all my peers went to because I thought if I didn’t, then I wasn’t being competitive.
Tonight I went prepared to try really hard again. To smile and get emails and business cards and throw my resume around the office like it was confetti. Because that’s what competitive business school students do. I sat down, slightly nervous and immediately became even more nervous because the chair felt so feeble, like it would give out underneath me any moment. I was then dramatically imagining the scene in my head of me breaking the chair (what a great self-esteem booster that woulda been), when I finally noticed the lyrics of the music that was playing. “Can’t you see I’m trying…”
Julian was singing.
Yes. It was “Is This It” by The Strokes. Yes, The Strokes. YES, MY FAV BAND IN THE ENTIRE WORLD IF YOU HAVEN’T GUESSED BY THE 938579486498 POSTS I’VE WRITTEN ABOUT THEM.
I felt immediately at ease and excited. A good omen from the heavens! Because clearly, if you like The Strokes you are a good person. And by that infallible fallacy, if a company employee puts The Strokes on a mix for that company’s networking night, than that company must be a good company.
You’re probably shaking your head at me right now, I feel it through the screen. I hear the word “coincidence” and “they’re just a dumb band.” This may be so. But the rest of the night was not coincidence or dumb.
Instead of an awkward handshake, I was greeted by a hug. Everyone was warm and friendly and relatable and down-to-earth and amazing. I have never met such genuine people; that must have been why it was so easy for me just to talk. For once I wasn’t thinking about the business card I wanted to get out of the conversation. I was just making conversation because these people, and their work were so interesting! And it wasn’t just a one-sided interest. I really felt like they were interested in me and my experiences too! I think that’s why I didn’t walk away feeling drained like I normally do. I got to be myself: I cracked some jokes, ate some chicken wings, and just talked to these people like they were actual people. They were so willing to share despite the gap in experience, qualifications, and knowledge.
They loved their work, that was clear. But even more, I felt like they loved each other. I never understood what “company culture” fully meant until tonight. I think the tangible things certainly play a role (beer in the office, bring your dog to work, designated nap times), but I now know it is really the intangibles that make the difference. The intangible feelings of mutual interest, common passion, and genuine love.
I mean, same with The Strokes, right? Tangibly, they are (incredibly) good looking and wear cool leather jackets and jeans with holes in them. But it is in those intangible ways that Julian croons into the microphone or the intangible way Albert spastically and sexily plays his guitar, that makes me fall in love with them.
I didn’t leave tonight’s event with any tangible business cards. But I did walk away with a few intangible but sincere connections. I left with the intangible feeling of excitement and hope. Hope not just for a job at that company, but hope for more future intangibles; future opportunities to meet and talk to people who are simply willing to talk back to me.