Tonight I attended a Mega Mixer sponsored by several journalism organizations such as the DC chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Asian American Journalism Association, the Washington Association of Black Journalists and more. And let me tell you, when they said a mega mixer, I figured it would be big but just imagine a ballroom full of journalists! Now that was something!
For many this scene of journalists would be intimating and you’re darn right it was! Here I am at the National Press Club (which is absolutely beautiful!!) in a room full of freelancers, full time/part time journalists, reporters, editors, hiring managers and more and the only thing I can think about is, “Who the heck do I talk to first?”
Well thankfully this wasn’t my first networking event and it was my biggest either but it was still very intimidating! Most of my networking experience has been one-on-one encounters at an internship or mixing and mingling with fellow journalists at NABJ conventions who look like me, sound like me and will respond to “Hey girl I love your hair or those are some cute shoes!” But this…this was a sea of diverse journalists and I was the most nervous that I’ve been in a while…and the fact that I’m fun-employed didn’t help my nerves either.
But after I got a soda and scanned the room, I noticed a black woman who was sitting at a pretty open table and I decided she would be person #1 — she way first contact of the night. Thankfully after I approached the table and asked if the seat near her was taken, there began our conversation, which went from our work experience, hometown, advise, suggestions and admitting the same nerves about the networking event.
And that’s usually how it goes at these events…you find a person and your decide to break the ice. Is it nerve racking, even super awkward? Yes, Yes and YES again but if that person is really meant to be your connection, then the conversation will be natural. And that’s what happened from there. One conversation led to another, business cards were exchange after each encounter and a little but more knowledge was handed to me.
But this experience was a little different. No, this is not my first journalism mixer since graduation but it is my first one as a fun-employed, freelance, college graduate with no job and that was fuel to the fire tonight for trying to meet contacts. I needed people to know that I’m serious about journalism and living in this city to get more experience…and trying to figure out what the heck I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.
Well thankfully, 11 people got that messages. Yep, I talked with eleven people within about two hours and they all ranged from freelancers, editors, communication directors, web designers and more. But there was one encounter that really hit home for me. It was a 64 year old (and I only know his age because he said it while we talked) freelance radio reporter for Fox Radio and he had some of the best advice I heard all night. He brought this veteran knowledge, experience and advice but in the form of a grandfather because he was candid, real and very traditional! And traditional in the sense that he reminded me that people forget little things these days like how to use a verb. He said every sentence needs a verb and he can’t understand why people leave them out. He also reminded me that we basically have the same skill level or knowledge about something but it’s those who can write that lead and intertwine the nugget sound bites that makes someone a reporter.
But a part from his advice his stories were so interesting and it was like hearing stories from my grandma about events and experiences from that past. Needless to say, I spent a long time talked with this gentleman but I promise you he wouldn’t forget me!
So networking, it’s one of those things that as a journalists we have to do it. It’s a part of our culture, our lifestyles, our nature but it’s also human for us to be nervous. It’s ironic that one of the freelancers I met today said it’s funny how people think journalists are all social butterflies when in reality a lot of them are very shy people. And I have to admit, it’s quite truth for some of us. When you ask us to interview complete strangers for our job, it’s fine, we don’t mind striking up conversations with random people but ask us to talk to complete strangers in a room…now that could be hard.
But tonight was a good night. I feel really confident that one of these connections (if not more) will lead to something big…my next gig!
Until next time,
*** please excuse any typos, this post was written via my iPhone.