The accidental networker
By Mary O’Callaghan
I went to the Brisbane launch of Mary Norris’s book, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, last week.
Norris is a copyeditor at The New Yorker—a job lusted after by editors the world over. And we editors descended on the little bookshop like a squadron of mosquitoes to an Irishman’s ankles.
What we all wanted to know, apart from the goss on Philip Roth and what grammar high priestess Eleanor Gould was really like to work with (‘terrible bitch’), was how the hell this girl from Ohio got a foot in the door of the esteemed literary mag.
Well, back in 1978 Norris’s brother was taking portrait classes in New York and there he befriended a classmate who happened to be married to the chairman of the board atThe New Yorker.
Which is not to say that Mary Norris was handed the job on a platter; she wasn’t. But the connection was made and she doesn’t deny that it had a hand in changing her life forever.
This anecdote reminded me of how subtle and serendipitous ‘networking’ can be; how a chance encounter can change lives; how it pays to treat everyone we meet with respect and curiosity.
I confess I’m intimidated by the big, scary flesh-pressing kind of ‘networking event’. Yet I’m completely at ease bantering with the barista, the butcher, the bloke in the queue next to me.
These tiny social encounters inherently have value—I always feel that they add a little pep to my day, which is probably because social connections make us happy. And who knows where they can lead.
In the Harvard Business Review article, Networking for introverts, introvert Dorie Clark claims that networking is fun when you match it to your strengths and interests.
She offers introverts these tips:
- Create your own events. Clark prefers hosting joint dinner parties with a friend to enduring a boozy harbour cruise with a big group of strangers.
- Understand when you’re at your best. Clark is not a morning person and struggles to psych herself up for breakfast networking events. She refuses any meetings before 8 am or after 9 pm.
- Rate the likelihood of connecting. Is it worth it? Who’s likely to attend and do you want to meet them? Are there better ways to spend your time? How long will it take you to re-energise?
- Calibrate your schedule. After the emotional drain of meeting people, make sure you’ve got days where you can do the kind of work that allows you to recharge.
PS The Comma Queen’s series of short videos are worth checking out if things like comma placement and split infinitives set your heart racing.