I hate networking.
Elevator pitches make me queasy.
I never want to retire.
Yesterday, I was talking to my best friend about the slew of hated terms in our grown-up vernacular. For me, networking meant I’d put on a suit, get my nails done and show up in a room full of similarly tweaked and coiffed people to talk about our corporate jobs and create a matrix of contacts who could be called on for information or insight. I’ve always been outgoing, but this was definitely awkward. Maybe it was the business suit – an uncomfortable uniform. Maybe it was all the things that seem to go unsaid – who was struggling with relationships, children, illness, addiction, the mortgage or even the rent. In many ways it felt like a show. I would speak what my mother called, “the King’s English,” and save my Brooklyn Ebonics for the after-party. Even when I embraced networking – floating from one women’s organization, to a small business owner’s event to a charity network, sipping chardonnay all the way, I never quite felt myself. I met some nice people, but I often felt like a show pony on a mission.
In sales, the elevator pitch is supposed to be a 30-second speech describing what you do and what you want, short enough for an elevator ride and interesting enough to share with a stranger. I’ve been instructed to create one so many times you’d think I’d have a bunch of great ones with words like “optimize” and “synergy” sprinkled throughout, but it’s always felt contrived and rehearsed. Elevator pitch definitely made it to my list of dirty phrases.
Last night I went to a dinner at a local vegan restaurant to celebrate the release of the new film, “The Game Changers.” As luck would have it, I never saw the film. The theater I went to had a one-hour delay and I opted to get my money back rather than leave my very cute canine assistant, Cooper, home alone for an extra hour. What I can say is this, I think I may have “networked” for the first time. In a room full of like-minded people, wearing what felt comfortable and colorful to me in that moment, talking about work that I’m passionate about, I didn’t have to think about telling someone else’s story, being strategic or political. I chatted and laughed about animal rescues and meditation, yoga and city life, animal sanctuaries and life coaching.
It’s a challenge to walk through life authentically in a culture that demands you wear the suit, carry the purse and fake it till you make it. You may not always be able to choose the space you’re in. However, there are times when you CAN choose your space. You CAN choose how you spend at least SOME of your time. You CAN choose what you teach your children.
Build your team. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Set lofty goals for your spirit and your intellect. Grow your compassion and kindness. Study to improve yourself and others. Connect with people you admire. And, when you build a genuine network and give your heartfelt pitch, let it be woven with passion and love. You’ll never want to retire from that.
I wish you all freedom, alignment and effortless abundance!
P.S. The photo is my ID from when I worked for Verizon at 2 World Trade Center in NYC from 1995 until 9/11. That girl went to a lot of networking events, made a bunch of pitches and planned to retire at 65.