Rogue Ink

April 21, 2008

Strange Beast: The Networker

Filed under: Copywriting,Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 7:50 am
Tags: , , ,

I don’t network. I consider the word ‘network’ to be sort of weird, in a spidery kind of way, implying people who work in a net, which pretty much limits the field to trapeze artists and arachnids. I don’t own a Rolodex, or a Palm Pilot, or a functioning long-term memory. I am a sociable person, but I forget names so easily I’ve taken to calling everyone ‘honey’ or ‘darling,’ like a fifty-year-old Southern waitress. If asked to name a person I know in the economics field, it would take me a minute, and I say this knowing I dated two economists, and went to a school that specializes in the field. I don’t network.

However, I love networkers.

This was not always the case.

Networkers always struck me as overenthusiastic people, the sort of people who want to be your friend right away. They want to know everything about you, where you were born, what your first boyfriend’s name was, what color your childhood blankie was and whatever happened to it. They come off a little creepy, and remind you vaguely of your mother at the dinner table the first time you brought a boyfriend home. This is because, for some reason, networkers seem to have an entire compartment of their brain devoted to Six Degrees of Separation.

If you’re not familiar with Six Degrees of Separation, it’s a play in which the theory is put forth that every person is related to every other person with six or less connecting people in between. So if I meet some guy on the street, his father may have gone to Kent State two years later than my father, and met a girl who once dated my dad. That’s guy-his father-girl-my father-me. I forget if that’s three degrees or four, but you get the idea.

If you’ve ever played the movie game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, you can connect actors on the principle of which movies they were in. Networkers can do this with everything. “Oh, you like to play bocce ball? I knew a guy in Guatemala who liked to play bocce ball. I should hook you two up.” Networkers play the game of Six Degrees in their heads, all the time.

“You’re a writer and you’re interested in writing for non-profits? I know fifteen people who head or are authorities in non-profits. You’d love this one guy, made a pill for cows.”

I don’t know about you, but I get all giddy when this happens to me.

Things to remember about networkers and the special game they play:

They think getting involved in the relationship is cheating. Most networkers I know are interested in how it worked out, but they refuse to be directly involved after the initial meet-and-greet. They’re not there to babysit, just to introduce. I think all networkers secretly want to be lab scientists, recording on little clipboards the interactions between Person X and Person Y, and scribbling down little theories about why it should be. If they could strap little GPS systems to our ankles and send us out into the world to interact freely, most networkers would practically faint with excitement.

They know when you’re faking it. Unlike your last boyfriend, networkers don’t want you to fake it. If the relationship didn’t work out, they want to know why, and they want to hook you up with someone better. They are constantly honing this skill, and they cannot get better at the game if you are rigging it. This goes double for pretending you like the networker himself more than you do. If this is the sort of person with whom you enjoy an occasional dinner, do not pretend he is your long-lost soul mate. He will know. He is savvy. This is what he does.

I just had dinner with one of these special creatures. She spent most of dinner telling me about all the people she thinks I’d hit it off with, who own businesses who need me, who know other people who own businesses who need me. She was thrilled sideways, playing her game with the skill of a pool shark, lining up her shots in order, ready to take them all down. She wants me to get my website up and running tomorrow, so she can send scads of people around and convince them to hire me.

That’s the other thing about networkers. They’re freaks. Lovable, wonderful, indispensable. Freaks.

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10 Comments »

  1. I met one of these creatures myself and what I find facinating is that they “care” about so many people. And they don’t think the networking is unusual.

    Comment by M — April 21, 2008 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

  2. LOL! I am coming around to networkers too. I like people and I find them interesting. I love talking to people and learning about them, but networking is a whole other ballgame. I like to help too but I don’t have the skills of these networking geniuses. I’m lucky to have met a few who are, of course only too glad to show you the ropes. As a result of these super helpful, crazy people my own network is growing and it’s not because of me! God bless those crazy networkers, I’m certain they make the world go round.

    Comment by Karen Swim — April 21, 2008 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

  3. I don’t understand networking. Aren’t I networking right now? Or am I just talking? I always thought that when you connect in a network of people and talk to them you are networking.

    The way you describe it it sounds like chess. Interesting.

    Comment by Ellen Wilson — April 21, 2008 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  4. Ellen – Okay, so this was always a thing for me. Now, when you and me and everyone we know talks on blogs, or exchanges tips, or are just generally awesome people in each other’s direction, I think that’s socializing. I mean, it’s friendly, helpful, nice socializing, but still. Networking is the practice of managing relationships, and while all of us of course do this on a regular basis on a low scale, there’s a subtle difference. It works like this:

    If I have a question about eLance, I know Karen works on it a lot and has offered to help manage it. That’s socializing, minor networking. That’s someone I know who knows something useful and is willing to help.

    If I know someone who is about to use eLance full-time to find people to work on their projects, and I direct him to Karen because she’s an expert, and the two of them have never met, and I throw in “Hey, and both of you love skydiving and you have maiden aunts who are the same age, you’ll get along great,” THAT’S networking.

    I think it has a lot to do with the two people involved being introduced by an outside party. We kind of introduced ourselves, you know?

    Comment by Tei — April 21, 2008 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  5. Tei,

    You knew my last boyfriend? I was gonna hook you two up, but I guess it’s too late. 🙂

    “Super-connectors,” Keith Ferrazzi calls them in Never Eat Alone (a book which won’t make you a super-connector, but will push you out the door more than you think is possible). They’re awesome. I wish I were one, but I’m too memory-challenged to have any real hopes of it.

    Ellen, my feeling is blogging and blog-commenting IS networking, especially in the sense that you develop relationships with no immediate likelihood of “payoff” as in becoming a client, yet all of you know that if you ran into someone who needed X, you’d send them to Y and no one else.

    Unlike face-to-face networking, with the Internet you have an effortless written record, so when you’re trying to remember who the heck Y is, you can use your email archives and bookmark to find them, as opposed to (my) ratty memory.

    My mother wants to know when all this “networking” results in someone telling me they know a gorgeous doctor about my age in DE or PA. Ma, it’s for business! Plus I just like blogging!

    You totally “captured” the creatures in this post. Well said!

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Comment by Kelly — April 21, 2008 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

  6. Gotcha. Networking is like a blind date. Something might come of it, but maybe not.

    Comment by Ellen Wilson — April 21, 2008 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

  7. Networker = professional non-romantic matchmaker? 🙂

    Comment by markdykeman — April 25, 2008 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  8. […] Rogue Ink […]

    Pingback by Men with Pens Web Content Writers and Freelance Writing Services — April 27, 2008 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

  9. […] of the blogs I’m really enjoying at the moment made some interesting comments about networkers the other day: Networkers always struck me as overenthusiastic people, the sort of people who want to be your […]

    Pingback by Networkers and Gen Y (or: "The Blind Leading the Bionic-Visioned?") « sunili’s blog — May 13, 2008 @ 4:34 am | Reply

  10. […] of the blogs I’m really enjoying at the moment made some interesting comments about networkers the other day: Networkers always struck me as overenthusiastic people, the sort of people who want to be your […]

    Pingback by Networkers and Gen Y (or: “The Blind Leading the Bionic-Visioned?”) « sunili’s blog — May 13, 2008 @ 4:35 am | Reply


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