I mean, I really, really hate networking events.
I know, I know, you're not suppose to hate networking - after all, there is a possibility that one of the connections made at one of these events could lead to a job or something. Nevertheless, I find many of these so-called mixers to be pretentious, demoralizing and just an all around drag.
It's not that I'm bad at meeting new people, I just hate the phoniness of these events. The endless exchange of business cards from out of work project manager, aspiring politicians and consultants, none of which are remotely interested in who you are but rather who what company employs you. The women standing around, posing in high stiletto heels, huge purses and overly-beat faces, falsely grinning while sizing up the competition. The men, equally overdressed in tailored suits and spit-shined loafers, cradling a glass of cheap Merlot while cruising the room for chicks, hoping for a little bit more than career opportunity. A guest note speaker, which is always the CEO or higher up executive of some riveting, breakthrough company, boorishly speaking on the virtues of why we should be attending more pretentious networking events.
The whole thing just reeks of self-aggrandizing, ego-boosting. And If it wasn't for the free food and wine, I probably wouldn't never-ever go to any of these events.
And that's exactly what I had in mind earlier this week, when I saw the Root.com's open invitation for the Young, Fabulous and Female event here in Philly - an excuse for free food and liquor. After all, the event, which was held at the African American Museum of Philadelphia, was billed as an "evening of conversation and cocktails," which sought to provide us Young and Fabulous females with "thought-provoking conversation focused on the career and life challenges facing young black women." That's usually code talk for everyone get overly-dressed up and engage in frivolous banter while doing everything in their power to be seen.
But I had made the mistake of telling my co-worker Carla, who then made the mistake of telling a friend of hers, who for some reason was really excited about going. So now I had to go and so did my co-worker Carla. And after reconfirming with my co-worker several dozes times throughout the day, "Are you sure, you still want to go," I was in my car headed downtown to the AAMP.
I arrived early, and took a seat in the second row, preparing myself mentally for what was certain to be an evening of superficial talk about seizing the day and dressing for success and all that jazz. I kept telling myself that all I had to do was sit still for maybe an hour and then I can happily reward myself (you know, for not totally being a bad-ass rebel and screaming "Fuck You" to the establishment) with a plate full of imported cheese, tiny finger sandwiches and yummy cookies. I really need to go food shopping.
Slowly the business card waving, stiletto heel wearing Fembots started to trickle in, mostly in pairs. I caught a couple of them giving me the once over, before warmly smiling and taking their seats. Perhaps they were admiring my I-really-didn't-give-a-fuck-enough-to-dress-for-the-occasion-attitude. Shrug. Anyway, I turned back around, hunkered down in my seat and braced myself for what would be a long showboat-y night.
The panelist, which included Sheinelle Johes Ojeh, local Fox News affiliate morning anchor, Jeri Lynne Johnson, director and founder of the Black pear Chamber Orchestra, Dr. Salamishah Tillet, writer and professor for the University of Pennsylvania, Sheryl Huggins, deputy editor for The Root.com and of course, Jackie Reid, clicked-clacked their way across the stage and to their seats. Even before they spoke a word, I was prepared to hate them, to hate this event. But you know what? As much as it pains me to say, I actually enjoyed the discussion.
These ladies were humorous, inspiring and just flat out real in their accounts on what it means to be a "successful" black women in the workforce. They offered up frank and candid narratives about being labeled the "angry black woman," defining success on their own terms and the sacrifices they had to endure. And of course, Jackie Reid, who is obsessed with finding a man and having babies, couldn't help but ask how their careers effected their personal lives. She is a hot mess - but in a good way.
After the discussion, Carla and I continued the discussion while we gorged ourselves on Cajun shrimp, fancy cheeses and cucumber crab salad sandwiches. We even met a few down-to-earth folks in regular after-work attire, who too hated coming to networking events. We had a big laugh about that.
Listen to the full panel discussion below: