My So-Called Post Ac Life
So as I wade through a mountain of shitty papers and make notes for my own shitty paper, I’ve also been trying to sew a few panels into my post ac golden parachute. I feel pretty disorganized, like I’m half assing 87 things at once and not really doing anything well. But even sewing a few stitches a day makes me feel better, like I’m making progress towards the kind of job or career I want.
My business has a name. And a website. And I have business cards. So I’m practically Gordon Gekko already, or at least the Kardashian husband with the slicked back hair who seems to be cut from the same cloth. And as I know from hours misspent watching old movies and reality television, the next step towards business success involves networking.
I don’t particularly like that word because it feels slimy. Like you’re out to grab each person passing by with a suctioney tentacle, flip em upside down, and shake them until their 1980s rolodex falls out of their big-shouldered business suit. (why are all my visions of non academic life drawn from Wall Street, Baby Boom, Working Girl era hollywood?)
I was never good at academic networking either. I always felt too nervous to approach a group of people, and I certainly did NOT want to find myself trapped between a plate of wilting sandwiches and some asshole who just gave an emperor has no clothes talk, of which I understood nothing.
So networking was never my strong point, but I figured that business people couldn’t be as bad as those who worship at the font of Foucault. I was right, which is a relief, but my first foray into the business world was kinda surreal anyways.
I went to a local ‘networking’ thing for entrepreneurs, which happened to be at an all you can eat Chinese buffet. Now I am a lover of won tons, but this struck me as a weird venue. And sure enough, there was something supa David Lynch-ey about the proceedings. Everyone took turns giving an ‘elevator pitch’ about their business, and who they were hoping to connect with. The types of people there generally fell into three categories (which occasionally overlapped):
The Multi-Tasker- these people had 2-3 businesses that they were promoting. None of them seemed connected or complimentary, like the person who had a machine repair business, a SEO company, and a day job as a taxi driver. Why would someone choose a SEO expert who also has to drive people around all day and fix machines to make rent?
The do as I say, not as I do people- this category included 3 obese ‘health and wellness’ type life coaches. I’m sorry, but this is insane. If I’m going to pay you $200 million rupees an hr or whatever to make me the picture of health, you should look like you woke up at 5am to do yoga on a beach. I would also not hire a voice and diction coach who spoke like James Gandolfini. The category also included people who wanted to tell you all about wealth management, yet here they were sitting in a shitty all you can eat buffet with entrepreneurs from the land of misfit toys. there was no wealth in that room, my own bank account included. This made me doubt their business acumen- they couldn’t possibly have that much wealth to manage if 1. they decide to trawl for it here, and 2. think it’s a good use of their time.
Captive Audience Lovers- these people barely mentioned their businesses and then spent 3 times the allotted speaking slot to tell everyone about their health issues. These people prevented me from taking full advantage of the all you can eat buffet.
and, most relevant to me, the Inarticulate- I’d say about 70 percent of the people there were unable to tell the assembled audience what exactly the fuck they do. Like the person selling the health shakes: “It’s really good, there’s this stuff in it that makes it really healthy, its organic….I forget what it’s called but if you google it, you should find it.” This made me feel a bit sad for humanity, but I figured, these people will probably need help with writing content, no?
Maybe I’m being harsh with my own mental assessment of what happened, but I can’t help it. The whole thing was sad and desperate and most of the people seemed like they had no idea what they were doing, or that they were projecting this confusion to the world. I do think it was the particular group I chose to network with though. I will certainly look for a more ‘professional’ gathering next time.
I did connect with a few of these people over email in the days after, but since I’m new to this world, I can’t tell if these are legit requests for business or creepy coded invites to meet up in a starbucks bathroom for some afternoon delight. A few of the emails stuck me as a bit ‘off’ and I’m not sure how to proceed.
The whole experience did leave me with a newfound sense of gratitude towards academia. I thought I was doing pretty fucking badly with my life choices, and while there are more efficient, less expensive ways to learn these lessons, academia has served me well in a number of ways. I can think critically. I can express myself through words and speech, even if I feel uncomfortable doing it. I can research and analyze the shit out of stuff. The thing is that when you are trapped on the 56th floor of the ivory tower, you believe that everyone can do these things too.
This is not the reality though. And this realization makes me a bit more confident that my ‘skills’ are marketable and that one day people will pay me for them.