There comes a time in a seniors life when she (or he) realizes that she (or he) will get absolutely nowhere in a career search without… networking. As much as we try to deny it and pretend that our future career paths will be determined solely by our incredible merit and vast work experience, the truth is we all need someone to put our resume on top of the pile at some point.
Though I realized long ago the value of networking and the harsh reality of “it’s who you know,” there are still some things I still need to learn about networking. For instance, what not to eat.
At the women’s alumni association networking event I attended two weeks ago, I learned this the hard way. Walking into a beautiful hall, I saw a crowd of girls getting name tags and walking over to the bar. Lo and behold, right across from the drinks was a cascading tower of chocolate cupcakes. I was ravenous at this point; the free food being a tiny but important part of my reasoning for attending. I took a small plate and walked over to the beautiful display in front of me. I dug into my cupcake as I began making my way around the room, talking to seniors and alums. I ran into a friend at the event about 10 minutes later and was informed that I had chocolate frosting in my teeth. I decided to examine the damage and realized that there was chocolate frosting not only on my teeth, but my hands as well. Any minute longer and, knowing me, it would have been right smack in the middle of my brand new grey slacks.
That was the moment I decided that eating and networking don’t mix. If you are drinking a glass of wine or water and go to shake someone’s hand, the wet handshake will not leave a pleasant association with your business card. When exactly during the conversation about your college career and job search do you stop yourself to take a bite out of the carrot you just dipped in ranch? “Hold on while I take a sip of my wine…” you think as your body language says, “I am bored with our conversation and need to drink up.” It’s all just a road to disaster, whether it’s hummus dips or cheese and crackers.
While the free food at the networking event might be a small incentive behind how you convinced yourself to get up off your butt and into business casual attire, please heed my warning, and eat before you go. Going hungry is not a good idea. Even if you do, just trust me and stay away from the cupcakes.