We don’t care about relationships. We read Humans of New York stories and every now and then find a story that we can rally around. But, as young professionals we don’t care about the stories of our network.
Two years ago I was at a pretty high level event. To this day I still don’t know how they let me in but alas favour is not fair. At the opening cocktail reception I began to walk around and engage in conversation, all the things Business Insider tells you to do to seem intelligent.
I finally settled on a nice enough group; They were close enough to a food table where I could swipe a mini quiche or two without seeming too hungry, Yet far enough as to not have others question my never ending supply of savory pastry.
My transition into their conversation was easy enough. I nodded in all the right places and when asked where I was from, the exoticism of being from the Bahamas gave me a bit of mystery. That is, until they asked where I worked. Earlier on while sneaking a bacon wrapped prawn from the “not too far away” table, I found out that two of the guys in the group worked for a big bank and another was a chief somebody or another at GE. At the time I was unemployed and even though I should have found no shame in my status, they looked at me in pity. In a move stolen from primary school students they shunned me for not being in a position to wear a tailored suit in a skyscraper somewhere.
This was obviously an isolated incident. I’ve never been treated like that again mostly because I’ve perfected the art of the bitch face. It did however change the way I interacted with people. We’ve been taught that networking should be seen as strategy and whereas that works for some people it will never work for me. These streets won’t let me be fake. I cringe when I sit in on conversations with people who solely want to know where you work and what you do and exclusively want to talk about your clients. I get it, business deals need to be made but when we’re talking about expanding our personal networks don’t you want to include people that you actually like? We’ve taken the concept of a network and confused the people that we’ve strategically chosen to be in them as friends.
It may be because I was such a loner in high-school but, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of friends. This isn’t a “ woe is me” moment, I’ve just always been curious about the idea of genuine friendships.
My mom always taught me that friends elevate you and take you to higher heights. So in my quest to build genuine friendships and relationships I unintentionally built a rock solid network that spans the globe. It was a sense of childlike naivety that got me to this point, that and Ella Fitzgerald.
“I never bother with people I hate” it’s a line from the song “The Lady is a Tramp” penned by Lorenz Hart and made famous by Frank Sinatra. I prefer when Ella sang it. She gave the show tune a bit more sass. Whereas hate may be the harshest of terms this song still describes my attitude towards networking. I can’t pretend I like everyone for the sake of strategy. Nor should I or anyone else have to.
Nodding my head at the epiphany someone had while eating a bowl of quinoa, produced in a Chilean styled farm off the coast of Guam is not my idea of enlightening conversation and it’s something I have very little patience for.
We try to market Gen-Y, as one collective unit that thinks one thing and the truth is, we don’t. My thought process on this entire thing may or may not be flawed but I do know that what we lack as a generation is sincerity in relationship building.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to review the people in my network and genuinely asked myself ” do I even like this person?”. If the answer was “No”, I found myself slowly losing contact with them. Not because they weren’t “nice” or “successful” it was because the aura of plastic surrounding them made me yearn for real human interaction.
Take a look at the people in your personal circle and apply the label of friend or acquaintance because by George there’s a difference. You don’t have to do what I did and cut them out of your life but you should be acutely aware of your surroundings. Because in a world filled with people and things set out to watch you fail, you don’t deserve to unknowingly be a strategic pawn placed in a circle for aesthetic purposes.
Be a tramp.