I love people. I'm happy chatting to old ladies on the street, little children, teenagers, men on building sites. I can chat to anyone, make friends with people easily and find people warm to me quickly and me to them. Why then do I hate networking so much? Isn't 'networking' just a posh name for chatting?
The song 'You will always find me in the kitchen at parties' pretty much applies to me. Despite having a very gregarious, warm nature (I flatter myself), I find parties nerve wracking and my coping strategy tends to be to get as drunk as possible. The same goes for networking where, in the absence of an opportunity for drinking, I usually just hide in the toilets.
I think the difference between my happy interactions with random people on the street and my nervousness at parties and networking events is that talking to people in an everyday setting is serendipitous whereas you go to parties and network with a mission to 'meet' people. At parties I often feel as though everyone is far cooler and more interesting than me and are no doubt finding me deadly dull, actively plotting their escape from me to be reunited with their fascinating friends. Similarly at networking events I always worry that the other person is far too important to talk to the likes of me and is probably looking over my shoulder for someone more worthy.
Interestingly I often meet some great people in the toilets and while I may not have the much vaunted elevator pitch taped, I may just have a 'cubicle pitch'. There's something very levelling about meeting someone in the loos. No matter how glamorous or successful you are, we all need a wee. Similarly at parties, there's often a more relaxed vibe in the kitchen and it gives you a reason to be there, eg: refilling your glass or searching for the Twiglets,
The fact that there are 'gurus' out there earning a fortune out of telling others how to 'network' indicates to me that I'm not alone in loathing and fearing the whole thing. Personally I find professional networkers annoying. The most successful and delightful networkers seem to be those people who look as if they're not even trying - and probably they're not.
So if you want to speak to me, come and meet me by the wash hand basins in the ladies. I'm bound to be there. Bring your own Twiglets.