Monday, July 13, 2009

The Nobility of Purpose

If you go to a gun range and fire at a target, successfully striking it, you're excellently pursuing a recreational hobby. If you are a marksman whose better than anyone else, you can win an Olympic gold medal. If you just fire guns in the air, you're a crazy person. If you fire guns at random targets without discretion or respect to context, you're a prime candidate for incarceration.

I attended a networking event this morning. It's effectiveness spurred an insatiable desire to compose a blog entry flagrantly abusing phrases such as "networking event waste of time" and "networking event folly" for search engine prioritization. This was for a group called LunkedMoonesoota. I deliberately misspelled their name in the hopes that it doesn't come up in search engines.

No disrespect to this organization I discovered on LinkedIn, but as soon as I arrived, I knew immediately this was going to be wrong. It was groups of people chatting like any networking event.

I'm the type of guy that doesn't necessarily thrive in a party. I wouldn't define myself as a hermit, but I'm not one who is great at initiating conversations with strangers. They feel so superficial to me that I have a hard time faking genuine interest. There's plenty of websites with advice out there for working these functions geared towards the introvert. While I've seen plenty of ingredients and approaches in these 1000+ word essays, they all end up making the same sandwich: just go out and do it cupcake, who cares?

In the various job search books that I have read, almost all of them advocate picking a direction; a step I resisted mightily the first two weeks of job searching. After all, why would I want to close off any opportunities? Just put a pickaxe in my hand and I'm ready to go! But as this process has worn on, I have come to understand why. When you are reaching out to a friend and asking for help finding a job, when he or she asks what you want to do, "anything" is not the correct answer. Above and beyond the desperation it conveys, it places an unnecessary burden on your friend. Not only do they feel a responsibility to help find a position, they have to find out what you'd be good at and what you want to do. It's too much to ask out of most people.

As someone who is looking to pursue writing / web writing / copywriting / et cetera in an advertising or interactive industry, I recognized the immediate problem upon entry. What uniquely qualified anybody here to help me? What was the best case, worst case, and most realistic scenario. Best case, somebody for an advertising agency looking to hire was there - worst case, nobody relevant to what I wanted to do was there and I made a fool of myself. The most realistic scenario was probably closer to the worst than the best - I'd meet one person who had a third degree connection with someone who could help me, and I'd pick up a bunch of leads that went nowhere.

Therein lies the problem. The only tie with LunkedMunnesopha was that we are all professionals in the same state. Not exactly the most exclusive of clubs nor distinctive enough a connection to be the foundation of any meaningful relationship. If you had some fried food and loud radio DJ's, you could almost consider the State Fair to be a comparable networking event. Without a defined purpose, what could anybody here reasonably expect to gain that would help them in pursuing their goals (or establish their goals should they have none?)

Being that I have *a lot* to do today (two informational interviews this week, one good job lead, and plenty of preparation), I booked. No point in prolonging my agony fruitlessly when more productive tasks lie ahead. While I've read plenty of books on the advantages of networking, and make no mistake they are real, doing so without purpose yields little more than inaction.

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