Party Like You’re an Intern!

The new thing: I went to my first networking party.

Here’s what happened: To gather intelligence on which editors were leaving which magazines before the jobs were posted anywhere, I crashed an after-work party for young editors and interns. Believe it or not, it was my first networking party ever. I was psyched!

The gabfest was held in the tiny party room of a New York bar. The first important piece of information I uncovered was this: When 50 women with still-developing voices gather in a space with as much room as a Smart Car, the sound will bounce from wall to wall and eventually land on my head. Or at least that’s how it will feel.

That’s me with a tableful of Glamour magazine interns

I chatted the girls up, asking lots of questions about their workplace and offering career advice. If they were giving me insider info, I’ll never know because I couldn’t really hear them. Once, an intern pointed to her friend and said, “She’s from Haiti.” What I heard was, “She’s in the navy.”

I moved to what I hoped was a quieter part of the room and interrupted a conversation between two young misses. We exchanged “where do you work?” banter. One pointed to the other and said, “She’s got a book coming out next summer.” That, I could hear perfectly. Go figure.

Disgusted at this youngster’s success, I headed to the bar for a drink. On my way, I encountered the Haiti/Navy interns swigging pretty pink cocktails. “Ooh, that looks good. What is it?” I asked. “Shirley Temples,” they said in unison.  I laughed. “No, really, what is it?” Same answer. Then the light bulb over my head stopped flickering and I understood: They weren’t old enough to drink booze.

Clearly, I was in the wrong place.

I went home, opened up the usual job listing web sites, and settled down with a Scotch.

Networking 101: All Choked Up

The new thing: I learned how to ask for help.

Here’s how it happened: After I got laid off from my job recently, I sent out loads of resumes in response to job listings. Though they were customized, keyword-happy things of beauty that detailed what a talented, totally fabulous writer and editor I am, the resumes generated limited interest. The way to land a job, everyone and their career coach told me, was to network.

So I sent out breezy emails announcing my employment eligibility to friends, friends of friends, college buddies, and former coworkers, some of whom I hadn’t been in touch with since Mark Zuckerberg was in preschool. But e-missives didn’t get me too far either. Apparently, emailing is considered the coward’s way of networking. To do it effectively, you have to use a live voice.

That’s when I found out that losing a job is hard, but networking, for me, is harder.

When you lose a job, it’s a quick process: A few (genuine or fake) sorrowful words from your employer, an awkward handshake, and a walk out the door. By contrast, networking is a daily saga of collecting names and contact information, getting your nerve up to call someone and, when it’s a total stranger, feeling your throat get tense as you spit out a few prepared opening lines (“This is Nancy Mattia, and our mutual friend Maria Von Trapp suggested I call you.”). Then you hold your breath and hope the person on the other end doesn’t slam the phone down.

I worry too much. Because instead of slams, I always get compassion, concern, optimism, advice, other networking leads. And, in some cases, job interviews and freelance assignments.

This talking thing actually works!

I’m getting better at it. A good deep breath and I’m on my way to the next long-lost friend/stranger/my gynecologist’s partner’s wife (it happened!).

If you get a call soon, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to offer me your wisdom.

Maria Von Trapp and I sincerely appreciate it.