Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Hours

Last Thursday night I attended a Happy Hour held by A.T.Kearney. I think this is the first of a few.

While the night was good, I don't think it was the greatest success on my behalf. There are two main buckets that I think all the reasons for why it wasn't a success: 1) my introversion and 2) my classmates.

Let's explore no. 1 first.

I'm an introvert by nature. No, that doesn't mean I'm shy, retiring, or anything of the sort. That's a pretty common misconception. (Some  places defining introversion: Definition of Introvert; Top Ten Myths; Wikipedia; ). I just hate small talk. Networking, and by extension Happy Hours, are filled with small talk. It drives me crazy. I have to wrack my mind on how I can interact on such a superficial level. Unfortunately, I'm aware that success in being memorable to the team that is recruiting is based upon your level of interaction and a lot of that is being superficial.
I also have to be considerate of others in the circle who are looking to interact. So my questions have to be on that superficial level; also, chances are, the company representatives who are doing this are extroverts too and love the small talk. I'm at a disadvantage all around.
Normally I can bluff it. But Thursday was a bad day all around - I found out my grand mother in Australia was diagnosed with terminal cancer the day before*. So that kinda dragged me down also.

No 2, however, is something that is disturbingly ever present. People seem to treat these events as a competition - i.e. how much face time they get with the representative - as opposed to being considerate to other classmates and allowing everyone quality time with the representatives. I've noticed two kinds of classmates. The first kind are the "stickies" - a group of people that insinuate themselves into a circle and then don't ever leave. The poor representative is constantly bombarded with questions about the company, the job, the lifestyle, etc. There's little natural interaction. It's as if the stickies think that if they are pushy enough, they will make an impression on the representative. I know if I was in the representative's shoes, it would certainly make an impression - a bad impression. Plus, the other downside is that because the circle is static, no-one else can enter the circle without looking ridiculous. I encountered a time at the Bain reception where there was about ten people in a circle, and two or three people were making an outer circle around the original circle because no-one was letting them into the original circle.
The second kind of people are the ones who dominate the conversation. I was in a circle where the conversation was about Washington DC. I had never been there, know little about it, and therefore couldn't contribute to the conversation at all. In fact, the majority of the people in the circle couldn't contribute - it was really just two people who were talking with the representative. Any attempts at steering the conversation away to topics that could involve all of us was not successful as the dominator continued to bring it back about her. Her rapport with the representative was fantastic; we could see she made a great connection. But it was at the expense of her classmates within the circle, which was very disappointing.

I gave up halfway through the night, and just hung out with some Consulting Club members whom I normally don't speak to on a regular basis. Hey, any networking is good networking. The bright point, too, was popping over to a representative's table and we both recognised each other - he played the SVP of Strategy during the interview portion of the ATK Case Competition. That interaction on the table was awesome.

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