Networking: For the Resistant Prisoner

Sonya Chen

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In a lunch and learn session at Alipes, we were self-casted into four different networking types: the Ace Room Worker, the Enthusiastic Failure, the Reluctant Hopeful, and the Resistant Prisoner. The Ace Room Workers weren’t necessarily extroverted, but they were experienced with networking and were able to engage with various personalities. The Enthusiastic Failures were inexperienced, yet eager to learn. Characterized by their enthusiasm for a successful networking experience, however rarely seeing the fruits of their labor. The Reluctant Hopefuls were cautious, uncertain how to begin a conversation and where to lead it once it had begun. Nonetheless, this group is keen to develop better networking skills. The Resistant Prisoners were people who felt forced and uneasy going to networking events, saw little value in networking, and were unlikely to connect with others.

I placed myself firmly in the Resistant Prisoners group. It wasn’t that I felt that networking wasn’t useful, I just had a deeply ingrained fear of networking and meeting new people. I always felt forced if I had to go to one of these events. As an introvert, female software engineer, in a industry that’s mostly male dominated, majority of my interactions with other humans came through a screen, by playing video games. So, interacting face to face with others was an extremely daunting prospect.

I couldn’t explain why I found myself reading—and considering—an email sent to me by a company that was hosting a female-only networking and job-hunting event.

But, if you’re a Resistant Prisoner like me and you do see the value of networking, be assured that you’re not the only one and you’re already making steps to move forward by reading this.

Even though this was a female-only event, I still felt like a fish out of water. I wasn’t sure how to best interact with other women in my field. At all the jobs I’ve worked at, I’ve had at most one other female co-worker on my team. So, I brought along a friend who I knew well, and fell under the qualifications to attend the event. Having someone I knew nearby helped with the anxiety. It also helped that she was more of an extrovert. I practiced my pitch in my head—the standard introduction of my name, who I worked for, what I did, what the company did, etc.

I went to the event with trepidation and false confidence. Upon entering the room and filling out my name tag, I headed straight to the table filled with food and loaded a plate. I discovered that being busy and having objects in my hand helped with the nervousness. Alcohol would also typically play a role in helping with any inhibitions you have—but since I don’t drink, it wasn’t going to help me. Going to the food table lead me to finding my first people to network with. My initial interactions weren’t the smoothest, but I soon found out that these fellow networkers were just as nervous as I was, which put me more at ease.

By the end of the night I managed to talk with a total of four people in about three hours. Not the best numbers, but as a Resistant Prisoner, it was better than the anticipated zero.


Sonya Chen