Well, the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy is ongoing, the power is back on, the house is warm again, and the Internet is humming away, so now is the time to get back on track. Last time, we talked about networking, so this time let’s talk a little bit about how to go about representing yourself while you’re in the process of getting your name out there. Whether it’s at a formal industry event or just hanging out among like-minded individuals, in my opinion it’s always best to be yourself. It’s really hard to know exactly how to act when you’re trying to put your best foot forward in these situations. Should you act like you are more established than you really are? Maybe B.S. a little bit? Drop a few names of people you may or may not actually have associations with?
Believe me, there are more than enough blowholes in the industry already. Nobody is all that eager to work with another one if they can avoid it. If you have a bad personality and are an insecure, meglomaniacal jerkweed deep inside, the best solution would be to stop being one rather than to ACT like a nice person while you network and then revert to being a jerk when nobody is watching. If you have these types of deep character defects, you will slip up and reveal yourself sooner or later, and eventually your true character will become known. It’s so much better to just be a nice, incredibly talented yet unassuming, friendly, good looking, funny, generous, kind, incredibly talented (did I say that one?) person with perfect taste in clothing and really fresh breath. People like that sort of stuff. While that list might sound a little daunting, it’s not all that. Really. Think about it. It might take a little practice, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to smile, listen to people when they talk, wear nice, reasonably trendy clothes that don’t scream “LOOK AT ME!!”, make the occasional humorous comment, treat people nicely, be generous when appropriate without seeming to pander or be overly obsequious (look it up, non English majors), brush your teeth regularly, and in general treat people how you would like to be treated, only MORE SO. Eventually, people will say “She is a monster engineer, she looks awesome, and she’s really nice to hang out with, too!” All three of those will get you regular work. Even one of those might get you a shot at work. But if you are a blowhole, a loudmouth, an unpleasant person, all three won’t get you the time of day.
You MUST develop your people skills. Nobody likes a jerk. Nobody likes a loudmouth, a “one-upper.” You know, the guy that says “You think YOU know where to get a good burger? Well let me tell you…….” EVERYBODY hates that guy. Don’t be that guy. And don’t be the person that sits quietly in the corner, either. Nobody remembers that person, so that’s no better than being the bigmouth jerk, career-wise. If you’re shy, you are going to have to work on that. As I said last time, networking is a process. Having people remember your name is a process. First, they have to meet you. They have to have a reason to remember you. So, you have to work on all of that. It’s like they say about political candidates. Who would you most want to have a beer with? Unlike political candidates, we actually spend a lot of time with the people we work with, so part of the metric isn’t just how talented they are. It’s also what it would be like to spend three weeks on a bus with them, or two weeks of 12 hour days in a recording studio. So not only is it a talent contest, it’s also a popularity contest. And it’s not unfair for likeability to be one of the criteria when people are choosing colleagues. So be someone who people would want to work with. But do it honestly. Do it by really BEING that person. Because you can’t sustain a career fooling people into thinking you’re genuine and likeable when you’re phony, mean, and creepy. Eventually, you’ll become known as the phony mean creep that you are. And who wants that?