The reality is not all events are created equally.
It may come in the form of a too small, too warm room with too many people in it. It may come in the form of a well-intentioned, but pushy person who knows exactly what you should do with your career and what you should value (“Why would anyone go through so much schooling to be a stay at home mom,” he asks). It may come in the form of a sponsor with their own intentions for the event, intentions that don’t match the goals of networkers.
At some point, you may experience a less than pleasant networking event. So, how does one exit a negative situation?
Share Your Love of Free Food.
Some individual walks up to you and introduces himself. He asks, “so what do you do?” You can engage, or you can respond—“I’m only here for the cheese and crackers” or “I heard there would be free wine.” You will send the message—I mean business—about food.
Nothing is more uninviting then invading another person’s physical space, talking loudly, and wildly gesticulating to get your point across. Disagree with someone? Shout it from the rooftops! You’ll be removed from all future event invites for certain.
Talk Politics and Religion at the Same Time.
Want some alone time? Spark a lively debate about the President’s latest tweets or HRC’s book. But don’t forget to mix it with your take on changing blue laws, stores closing on Sunday, and other important debates.
All Joking Aside…
If an event is not your “thing,” don’t feel compelled to stay, and don’t sabotage yourself using one of the not so okay recommendations above. Politely bow out, head home, and enjoy your evening. One networking event absence (or two, three, or four) will not destroy your chances at achieving your career goals.
P.S. If you have ever been guilty of one of the first three recommendations, rethink how you interact in a networking environment. It’s okay to be there for the free food, but I wouldn’t admit it aloud.