what was your most awkward networking encounter?

Want to win a free Premium LinkedIn membership? Read on.

I’ve mentioned here before that I hate networking. Hate it, hate it, hate it. It’s mainly because I’m an introvert, but it’s also because I have a special talent for saying things that sounded funny in my head but somehow aren’t when I say them out loud.

But I still think that you should network, because the reality is that it’s ridiculously helpful. And that’s why I’ve agreed to give away four Premium LinkedIn memberships to Ask a Manager readers.

The details:  To help women use networking to advance in their careers, Citi and LinkedIn are launching a new professional community called Connect: Professional Women’s Network. The idea is to help women increase their network connections (and they already have members like Women for Hire CEO Tory Johnson and Womensphere founder Analisa Balares), plus provide them with tips for professional success. To help launch it, they’ve provided me with four Premium LinkedIn memberships to give away (valued at approximately $600 per membership). Premium memberships give you the ability to contact people outside your network, add personal notes to profiles so you can remember where you met someone, InMail capabilities, let you see who viewed your profile, and more. (Disclaimer: They also gave me one.)

To figure out who will win these, here’s what I’ve concocted: Leave a comment below telling us your most amusing (read: awkward) or most impressive networking story. I’ll select the winners by picking the four that I judge funniest or most impressive.

The rules:

– Don’t make things up. That’s bad luck.

– You don’t need to be a woman to enter, despite the focus of the networking group.

– Make sure to leave your email address in the box that asks for it when you leave your comment, so that I can alert you if you win. (I’m the only one who will be able to see it.)

– Leave your comment by 11:59 p.m. EST May 11.

That’s it. And you can check out the new networking group here.

Update: The deadline for new entries is now passed.

{ 174 comments… read them below }

  1. Solar*

    I went to a conference two years ago when I was just starting my Master’s degree in order to get to know some of the leaders in my male-dominated industry. In between going to talks and walking around and looking at company booths, I had a book that I needed to read for my English class called “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex”. It was a very intersting book but I perhaps should have been more careful about where I was reading it.

    Sitting in the conference hotel lobby, I was approached by several men I recognized from the talks. They asked what I was reading and there was really no way for me to explain the concept of the book without looking a little awkward. They all seemed very interested, though. But now I’m extra careful about what I bring with me to read at a conference to network; some possible connections might get the wrong idea.

    1. Anonymous*

      (Never be careful when and where you read Mary Roach. If your acquaintances and colleagues aren’t aware of her work it’s their loss.)

      1. Solar*

        Oh, if anything I think I gave her a couple new avid readers, for sure! It was just an awkward subject to try and explain at a professional conference to men quite a bit my senior.

        1. Andrew*

          I think they probably could deal with the startling fact that sex exists. On the other hand, if you had been seen reading her book about corpses, “Stiff”…

      2. Ellie H.*

        My networking story is that I know Mary Roach! I had the privilege of introducing her at a book signing once.

  2. Lisa*

    I once found out I was laid off by Twitter before my company had actually told me. Received a condolence tweet from someone who once consulted for the company in the morning, confronted my manager, she told me there was nothing going on and then an hour later laid off my entire department. That was the awkward part. The silver lining: The person who told me ended up being an amazing friend and mentor!

    1. bob*

      Wow that is utterly and completely bush league! Can you dish on the company so I won’t accidentally go work there??!?

  3. Holly*

    About a year ago I attended a close friend’s college graduation party. I didn’t really know many people there except for her, and certainly no one in her family. I was enjoying some cake when one woman sat down next to me at the table and asked me what I did for a living. It was a bit weird already – this was a casual moment with friends, not a time to talk about work – but even weirder that she asked that before she asked my name. I told her I’m a Communications Intern at a local non-profit, and she then went on to ask me tons of questions about the type of writing I do – blogs, website editing, e-blasts, Facebook, and on. She was particularly intrigued by the power of the internet blog. It was a bit bizarre.

    She then jumped into talking about her business in real estate (I didn’t ask about it, she just went there) and how she thought blogging could help her in this economy. I barely got a comment or two out about the new age of social media interaction and marketing when she asked me if I had any interest in real estate and wanted to blog for her. I’m not one to turn down an opportunity, no matter how random, so I agreed, even though I know little about real estate. She asked me for a company card so she could call my work about volunteer opportunities, then put my name in her phone as “Blogging Girl.” I got her number, with her actual name, and then awkwardly wandered away to find my friend.

    I haven’t heard from her since.

  4. Cara*

    One during law school I was invited to a law firm’s cocktail party. I had not gotten an interview yet, but had applied to work there for the summer, so I was very excited. I went and discovered that everyone else they invited had already been interviewed, so people kept asking me when my interview was and what I had thought of it, so I awkwardly had to say that I hadn’t had an interview yet.

    The icing on the cake though was when I was trying to mingle with a group of lawyers who then started talking about the body odor of various support personnel in their office. It just kept going. It was awful. There’s just no good way to react to joking about a secretary’s body odor at a professional function.

  5. The Other Dawn*

    I had an awkward moment and a successful moment last night.

    I am a banker and am currently attending a finance and banking management school run by the state bankers’ association. I am nearing the end of the first year and have been assigned a major paper (20-40 pages), which requires discussion of finance, compliance, technology, economics, etc. All students were given the opportunity to attend a meeting of the local chapter of financial managers society in order to help us with economic forecasting and such. I attended this meeting last night.

    I went in with a plan: to coax from the speaker an offer to call him if I needed any help with my paper (since finance isn’t my thing). During the presentation I made lots of eye contact, took notes, and looked very interested in the topic (I was). After the presentation he asked if he could sit at our dinner table. He sat right next to me. I complimented his presentation (it was interesting). Eventually I found an opening and made it known how I got the invitation to the event. This prompted questions about the school and the curriculum. I then talked about my paper and answered his questions about the required content. Then he told me to call him if I had any questions or could help in any way. He told me again on the way out. Mission accomplished.

    When sitting around the table during dinner, someone asked me what I do at the bank. I work in a very small community bank so I wear a lot of hats. I replied that I head up Operations, deal with regulatory compliance and take care of the “IT and technology.” Duh. One and the same. Then I proceeded to spout off about all the new technology being offered by our core processor (person-to-person payments, etc.)…to a bunch of CPAs and finance people. Not exactly fitting for this group of people considering a lot of them weren’t bankers. Plus, I believe I was the only person in the room who wasn’t involved in finance in some way.

  6. Carolyn*

    I signed up for a mentoring program to be matched up with a local executive since I too hate networking. I was matched with a guy, and we went to lunch. There were many awkward moments, but the biggest came was when I let him know I was pregnant since it might effect scheduling during the 6 month program. He let me know how much kids ruined his marriage and his wife’s career.

    Awesome, mentor.

  7. T*

    My girlfriends and I went out for my bachelorette party to a few local clubs in the city I live in. Against my better judgement, I was talked into doing a body shot (ew) off of some guy. A few months later I ran into him at a work function and nearly died of embarrassment! Awkward!

  8. SLC*

    I am very bad at names. I often recognize people, but can’t remember why. I was at lunch one day with a coworker who usually works at another building, and I said to her something about how she knows So-and-So (older portly gentleman), who was sitting at a table right next to us. She turned and looked, and said, “That’s not So-and-So.” The gentleman, who had heard me, also turned and said, “I’m not So-and-So.” I had mixed him up with another older, portly gentleman. I was greatly embarrassed, especially because he seemed to find the mix-up insulting. From then on out, I made sure to say the gentleman’s name every time I saw him, so that he would know I knew who he was.

    A year and a half later, I found out I had been calling him by the wrong name.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I feel for you. I am the same way. I go to training seminars quite often lately and I always have this feeling of knowing I know the person from somewhere, but can’t remember their name or where I saw them.

      The best example I have is when I was at a monthly banking school class a couple months ago. We were on our lunch break and some guy calls me by my first name and asks me a question (which I didn’t hear because I was wandering the hall aimlessly). I just replied with something about work being busy as always. For the next half hour I was trying so hard to figure out where I knew the guy from, wracking my brain as to how he knew my name. So I go back into the conference room to finish the class and I see the guy sit down. He was in my banking class and I’d seen him every month, sometimes twice a month, since last September. Duh.

      1. SLC*

        The worst part was, every time I saw this guy after that time at lunch, I made sure to say his name, repeatedly. But I still had his name wrong.

        1. DC*

          You should’ve just said to him, “You know what? I’m re-naming you. From now on, you’re ‘Stan’.” ;-)

    2. Janet*

      To make you feel better, I did this once. Started a new job and had a whirlwind first week of meeting so many people. That weekend I was out with my husband and a middle-aged Indian woman stopped me in a store and was like “Hey, you just started – Janet, right?” and I said “Oh yes! Good to see you, Blah blah” and then introduced her to my husband. The woman said “I’m not Blah blah, that’s the other Indian woman who works with us.”
      Red face. Whoops. And of course my husband afterwards was like “Well, that was awkward.”
      To be fair to me, they’re the same age, work on the same floor and have the same haircut.

    3. Flynn*

      That was marvellous :D

      Personally, I’m always getting my department manager and the supervisor of the other lot we work with mixed up (we’re a joint library). I don’t see either of them very often, they’re both about the same age and build and have greying brown hair. Generally, I only see them going into my boss’ office for a monthly meeting.

      Unfortunately, one is the casual-friendly manager of the staff who works downstairs and has nothing really to do with me otherwise and the other is my Ultimate Boss who I rarely see but is… well, my boss. So there’s both a social and a power differential, but of course, I always get them mixed up and act as if it’s the other one.

      1. SLC*

        Now I avoid saying anyone’s names, even if I think I know it for sure, because chances are, I will make an idiot of myself.

  9. Jen W*

    I attended a multi-day conference that provided all meals for attendees in effort to have everyone network during said meals. Breakfast each morning was held in an area accessed by walking down a flight of stairs. I was headed down the stairs, looking into the room to see who was already at breakfast and thinking about who I might eat and chat with. I lost my footing and rolled/bounced all the way down to the breakfast area with my laptop tumbling behind me. Of course everyone stopped eating and talking and started gasping and staring. Everyone knew who I was after that!

    1. Rana*

      Ouch! I’ve once taken a tumble like that (embarrassing, even if you’re not hurt) but never at a conference!

      1. Jen W*

        It was definitely the most embarrassing moment of my life. Also one of the most painful. Somehow, thankfully, I limped away with nothing more than bruises and a red face.

  10. AD*

    In college, I was invited to a second round of interviews for a company after passing the on-campus screen. The first night, there was a cocktail party with beer and wine, and I drank neither. One of their younger staff members jokingly asked if I was pregnant or something (!!!), and I said that I was under 21. He gave me a weird look, and a bit later, a manager came over and told me that there must have been some confusion, because they were only looking for full-time employees, not summer interns. I explained that I was, indeed, graduating in two months, and looking for full-time work.

    The next day, one of my interviews was with the “are you pregnant” guy, and he told me he’d gotten chewed out for not having his facts straight. And then I had to sit there and answer his questions for a full hour.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      He should have gotten chewed out for (a) asking a job applicant if she was pregnant and (b) implying there would have to be a reason for not drinking!

  11. sophylou*

    A few months ago I was at a conference session on digital humanities applications. During the Q&A, I asked a question relating methodological aspects of one panelist’s project to another panelist’s project, which happened to involve film. After the panel an older gentleman approached me and began to describe at length a very ambitious film-based digital-humanities project he was hoping to start up, and asked if I would be interested in working on the film project. I thought he misunderstood my title and was asking me to assist as a volunteer based on my current professional capacity (I’m a librarian), and he made it clear that he needed someone with experience in film editing. When I tried to clarify, as diplomatically as I could, that I did not have the skills he was looking for, he got upset and berated me for having asked a question that made him think that I had expertise in film editing! Still not sure how a broad methodological question led him to that specific of a conclusion.

  12. Ms Enthusiasm*

    Could be impressive:

    I work at a large corporation with thousands of people. We have things called Employee Resource Groups. I’m involved with the Women’s Initiatve Group; I’m actually co-chair of the membership committee which really helps with networking. For most of my time at this company I worked at a smaller “satellite” building and not the main corporate office. Our smaller building was nice but we really never had a chance to interact with CORPORATE. I put it in capital letters purposly because that is how they seemed to many of us – just intimidating and unattainable.

    Our Women’s Initiative Network partners with several outside Women’s organizations such as the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. They have events that we find out about because of the partnership. Anyway, I finally got up the nerve to attend an event. I was going by myself but I was really excited. At the event I got to talk to several women who also work where I work. I was so proud of myself! To make a long story short I ended up talking to the VP of talent management from my company for a while. She was very approachable and friendly. We had some things in common because we are both involved with the Women’s Initiative Network.

    Afterward I sent emails to the women I spoke to from work just letting them know I enjoyed meeting them. But especially to the VP of talent management I also included that I would love to meet with her for coffee to “pick her brain” (or something to that effect). I felt so brave. Very soon after I received an email from her assistant asking for my availability so she could schedule the coffee!

    We met for coffee and it was a great conversation. I mainly wanted to talk about development opportunities for people at my level and she gave me tons of great information. I feel like this information has given me a new perspective at how our company views talent and what it means to be a superstar. I’ve been trying to raise the bar on my performance and I think this helped. I think it was also just good to get my name in her head for future reference. Who knows what can happen :)

    And (as of 3 weeks ago) I now work at the CORPORATE building. And I know a lot of the development opportunities available to me. And since we are both still involved with the Women’s Initiative Network I still get to see the VP also.

    1. Lesa*

      I love this! You stepped a little out of your comfort zone and your networking helped you make some great connections! It’s also nice to see how your VP responded to your request. What a good success story. You are helping to make your own good luck. I wish you much success as you continue in your career!

  13. Adriana B.*

    I had just moved to the U.S., and my boss invited me to join her in a women’s networking event in NYC. I’m also an introvert, and was terribly uncomfortable because English is my second language, and at that point it was not as easy for me to conduct small talk as it is today.

    My boss at the time, a great sales woman, was “working the crowd” while I was getting nowhere in my feeble attempts to introduce myself to people who seemed to be in lively conversations with others they already knew.

    When one of the speakers (a successful C-level executive) finished her talk on diversity in the workforce, she asked if anyone had any questions, and there was complete silence. It was starting to get awkward, the organizers looking around pleading for someone to ask at least one question. I was shaking, but managed to raise my hand and ask something in the lines, “how did you reconcile the need to provide quick results in your projects with the desire to embrace diversity by choosing people with different backgrounds and perspectives to be part of your team?”.

    My boss looked back to where I was standing, and mouthed the words “excellent question!”. The speaker seemed very pleased with the question too, and after the talk I was finally able to relax and exchange business cards with several women in my industry.

    After several years, I still consider that my best networking experience, and one that taught me the lesson to persevere even when our first attempts to meet new people fail. If one strategy (such as approach people and try to introduce yourself) doesn’t work, don’t give up, try something else.

  14. Stells*

    I have this horrible ability of wording otherwise benign statements in a way that sounds absolutely insulting. It’s a curse.

    The most awkward for me was when my husband and I were invited by a mentor (and former employer) to a wine tasting with some other couples. We were much younger than the other two couples (by at least 30-40 years) which is not uncommon since that is my mentor’s age. Anyway, my eloquent husband hit if off with everyone, while I tried to interject when there was a break. At one point one of the older gentleman (who I found out later was the son of a guy who has several buildings and landmarks in Dallas that bear his name) was talking about how he had recently been reading some Jack London. He had never read the author before, and I commented how much I love some of his novels. Now, my dad was a HUGE fan of Jack London, so I grew up reading them. When my mentor asked me when I had found time to read them, I noted that I read them when I was in elementary school – which spurred an entire line of questions regarding the author and, well, for what reading level these books were written. The older gentleman started to get a bit defensive, so I quickly backtracked (I guess no one in this group had ever heard of Jack London, which I still find very odd), stating my dad had read them to us until we learned to read on our own. Still, the damage was done and the evening quickly ended after that. My mentor was completely oblivious, as she always is, but I felt like crawling in a hole after that.

    1. Kimberlee*

      I LOVE this story. I think I read Jack London in like the 7th grade, but it might have even been earlier. It’s maybe not intended for kids, but apparently it’s got few enough swears that it works!

    2. Another Ellie*

      Wow. I too am a bit surprised these people didn’t know London. The Call of the Wild was the first book we were assigned for 6th grade English, and it and White Fang are often suggested “classic” reading for young (10-14 year old) boys. I’m also a bit disappointed that they would look down on an adult for reading what they perceive to be “children’s literature,” especially classics.

    3. class factotum*

      Along those lines: I had just watched a series on PBS about the English language and had even bought the companion book. I found it fascinating that in some parts of the Appalachians, they still speak (or did, then) Elizabethan English or whatever English it was that Shakespeare spoke.

      I raved about this to my boss, who was from Kentucky. The mountains. The first one in his family ever to go to college. I just thought it was neat and wanted to know if he’d heard that version of English, but he thought I was insulting him and his background. I wasn’t! I just thought it was so cool!

  15. mbm*

    One day in grad school I got an e-mail from a VP at a big company wanting to take me to lunch. I had no idea why, but I thought hey, why not go?

    At some point, I asked the guy what made him interested in my work. He looked confused. “Well, you won the fellowship.” “Um…fellowship? What fellowship?”

    Apparently my advisor had applied for a two-year corporate fellowship on my behalf, and I won, but he never told me anything about it. So I ended up looking stupid and ungrateful in front of this VP whose company gave me a lot of money.

    1. Steve G*

      Maybe I don’t understand fellowships…..but is the not telling you part legal? Or had he just not told you about it yet?

      1. mbm*

        He probably just forgot to mention it — this was months after the fellowship had started.

        Everything gets funneled through the university, so I had no way to know where exactly my checks were coming from. I had assumed that, like most grad students, I was being funded by a research grants, and not an outside fellowship. (You know what they say about the word ASSUME…)

  16. Bonnie*

    During college I applied for a scholarship from a local women’s networking group. I didn’t get the scholarship but they still asked us to attend a luncheon in honor of those who had won the scholarship. So I neworked with a group of women who had chosen to not to give me a scholarship.

    1. Ruby*

      This totally made me laugh. I can just imagine myown inner-dialogue if I were in your shoes.

  17. Ana Ortega*

    About two years ago I was invited to a networking event for “available candidates” to meet potential employers. With all the courage I could muster I attended the event. While there, I again gathered my courage and approached the contact from a company at which I had applied for a job, only to be told by this person that he wasn’t surprised I had not heard back from them as they received over 200 applications for the position and only choose the top 12 to interview; he pretty much dismissed me after that. I left the event shortly thereafter because not only was I completely uncomfortable with the whole idea of attending this event, but I also felt like a piece of meat for sale.

    Then, last week my current boss told me that while I’m doing great with product knowledge and execution of job duties (I’ve been in the position one year), I basically stink at relationship building and networking. So, my task this year is to improve my schmoozing ability and she is somehow going to get me help with this. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

    1. Long Time Admin*

      Your boss sounds great! What most people don’t tell you is that relationship building and networks are skills that can be learned. Some folks seem to be born with that ability but most of us need to learn and practice it to do it well.

      In a year, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come!

  18. Mo*

    My company donated some products to be used at an art benefit, and as a thank you, the organization invited us to the benefit party. Since my colleagues could not go, they urged me to go, and I ended up super uncomfortable at this swanky cocktail party in Manhattan. Good drinks, good food, bad situation for an introvert like myself, but I promised my boss I would go and meet the organizers and stay for a drink. While I was trying to blend in with the wall, I spotted another woman sipping her drink alone on the couch. I decided to go up and talk to her. After some chit-chat, I asked her what she did. She replied that she was a ceramics artist, and I blurted out, “How fabulous! I once taught a ceramics course at a museum summer camp. I’m not a real artist though, I only know the bare basics about ceramics.” She then furrowed her brow, and started asking me all of these questions, including the name of the museum. After I told her, she said “How funny. I applied for that same job, and was told I didn’t have enough experience. Excuse me…” Aaaaaaand that’s when I shriveled up and swept myself under the couch. Awkward!

    1. Liz*

      Wow. I don’t think she should have told you – it wasn’t your fault they hired you instead of her.

      At the same time, I can sympathize with her. It’s hard to think anything but, “Well I guess they just hated my personality,” when you find out that a hiring manager lied about why someone else was hired.

  19. Lexy*

    Awkward: At a dinner for applicants I wanted to tell a relevant story that illustrated a point I was making, but the very beginning was a little off-color so I attempted to get around that by saying “I don’t remember how [X] got started but [Relevant part]” One of the other people at the table (who was interviewing for a different position in a different location than me… so definitely just being clueless, not mean) said “Oh I remember how [X] got started: [Part I didn’t want told]” The table got really quiet and I turned quite red.

    Impressive: While in school I had an awesome professor who was an adjunct working fulltime at a very desirable firm. I impressed her with my work on one of our projects and she helped me to get my internship that summer with a different firm she had worked with previously. I stayed in touch with her, and even sent her a hand written thank you note (on Crane stationery… nice girls use Crane!).

    The next year, the last year of my program, she contacted me out of the blue for a temp position at a company she was doing some consulting for. They had basically said “whoever you recommend, we’ll hire” and she recommended me. It was EXTREMELY well paying and gave me great experience and further contacts in the industry. All because I stayed in touch with a professor I admired. Doing well in school really does matter kids!

      1. Lexy*

        Ha! I’ve now made it out into a much more interesting story than it is.

        Basically it was a group of accountants talking about how it’s odd that conservative pro-life groups support adoption related tax breaks but not child care tax breaks. I chimed in with a sarcastic comment about those groups’ opinion of working moms. Which led to an actually relevant discussion about how women progress professionally in accounting.

        Tada! That’s how you awkward kids.

        1. Ellie H.*

          I agree, that’s not so salacious. Still, I can understand how it would have been embarrassing.

  20. Kat M*

    When I lived in Malawi, “networking” meant participating in all sorts of community events on behalf of the school I was teaching at. Quite frequently, the community event I would be expected to attend was a neighborhood funeral.

    On funeral days, I’d have to run home to my flat, find a chitenje to wrap around my waist over my work clothes, and hop in the back of somebody’s truck to get to the home of the deceased. I’d proceed to sit outside on the ground for a couple of hours, pretending I knew the words to the hymns.

    There were two important networking activities that took place at funerals. One involved donating money to the surviving family members on behalf of the school. It would be shared that the school had given, and this was vital in showing that it was supportive of the community. The second networking opportunity was about connecting with the women who had gathered. Unfortunately, the only opportune time to do this involved while cooking huge amounts of food for the people who’d gathered.

    I am a decent cook by American standards. But I’m not able to make nsima (thick maize porridge, it kind of tastes like mashed potatoes) for 100 people over a charcoal fire. So I got to stand around, looking like a lazy idiot while everyone else did their bit for the fabric of society.

    Eventually, I started playing with small children at social events like this. I spoke the language at about their level, and the adults seemed to find it endearing. To this day, I focus on any nearby children when in awkward social situations. But goodness, I felt so rotten before I figured that one out!

    1. Kimberlee*

      This story gets my vote (not that I have one). What a clever way to get around the problem!

    2. Kit M.*

      Ha! That reminds me of an experience I had (which, upon reflection, *is* sort of a networking story). When I was about 14, I got a job babysitting a two year-old on our block for the first time. When I arrived at the home, the parents said they’d be sticking around for a while before leaving. I was very shy and it made me uncomfortable that they were there, so I wandered off to play with their kid so I wouldn’t have to talk to them. Later that night when they got back home, they told me that they had been really impressed by how I had interacted with their child instead of just hanging out and watching TV with them like most teenagers would do, and that they would be happy to recommend me to their friends. Three cheers for (accidentally) finding ways to use your social awkwardness to your advantage!

      1. Vicki*

        Given that you were there to babysit, it seems to me that you (accidentally) picked a mature and logical way to handle the situation.

    3. ANON*

      Hi Kat, where In Malawi did you live? I am a Malawian currently in the states and your story made me miss home so much. Right on point with the networking/

  21. Dana*

    I was serving myself some layered cheese spread at a reception for one of Canada’s top poets. I was chatting with said poet and a couple of professors I hoped to work with in the future. As I scooped the cheese onto my plate, the poet reached over, patted my stomach, and said, “Girls like us have to watch how much rich food we eat, don’t we?”

    My face immediately turned beet red and the professors I was with looked super uncomfortable. Acclaimed poet or not – patting someone’s belly is not okay!

    1. Another Emily*

      Wow, that was so rude of her! In situations like this all the social awkwardness should be on the rude person. Unfortunately the poet was probably oblivious to how not okay it is to do that.

  22. Julia*

    Aaargh! I signed off most of my social networking sites in a fury a couple of years ago because I kept on getting “friend” requests from a kitchen contractor who I had recently caught trying to steal $17,000 from us. I was thinking “No! I do not want to be your friend. I’d rather you fried in Hell!” Seriously, how obtuse can you be?

    I’m getting back into it now.

    1. Vicki*

      Isn’t there an “ignore requests” button you could push? No need to have that bozo push you out completely!

  23. 2Dogs Teresa*

    I was interning in New York City in the spring of 2010, right after I had graduated college in December, and was trying desperately to find a publishing job. One of the first things I did was join my college’s alumni Manhattan email Listserv to try to find one. I sent out my resume, was contacted by an alum and had an interview scheduled. When I met with the alum, and we both realized the job he had available wouldn’t be a good fit for me, he told me about a big cocktail hour that the business school hosts every year. Although I wasn’t a business major (and that wasn’t even remotely close to what I majored in), I figured it couldn’t hurt to try to meet some people at the event.

    So off I went to a big meeting room at one of the top floors of this swanky, skyscraper office building with a gorgeous view overlooking Central Park as the sun was setting. So after speeches from well-known campus figures including the VP of the alumni association and the dean of business school, we were all mingling with delicious, free drinks in hand. Here is an abbreviated list of all the people I met that night: a Wall Street headhunter, a woman who ran her very own financial company and a slew of people who worked at financial firms. Aside from the free cocktails, the night was essentially a bust. However, the “best” part of the night was when the dean of the business school came up to me and asked “which one of the big firms do you work for?” I politely told him that I was searching for a job in publishing, not finance. He didn’t say a word back. Instead, he scrunched his face up, sipped his cocktail, stared off into space and acted like I was a crazy person. It was one of the most awkward moments of my life and definitely one of my most memorable networking moments, too.
    P.S. Because of moments like this, I hate networking too, AAM!

    1. Kimberlee*

      I imagined the dean of the business school as the Dean from Community, which was pretty funny. :)

      1. 2Dogs Teresa*

        Ha! The dean in my story was this older man with a Bronx accent who was about three inches shorter than me (I’m only 5′ 8″). But yes, Dean from Community would have been good, too. :-)

  24. Julie*

    A friend of mine started working for a beauty company as a representative. Since I have a beauty blog, she thought I would be great at being a representative too and she tried to recruit me. Though I was uncomfortable with the idea, she continued to encourage me to join. She planned a time for us to discuss it and when I got to the location (thinking it’d be one on one), I saw it was a meeting…with many people! They also were there to learn more about being a representative. I had to awkwardly sit through the presentation as other representatives raved about the company (oh and by the way, you have to pay to become one!) and how there is unlimited potential for growth! Needless to say, I decided it wasn’t for me.

  25. AWilliams*

    Well… mine is pretty lame… and not really awkward.

    I too am really bad at networking because I am painfully shy. I went to a conference in April for our state professional organization – the first one I’ve ever attended for work purposes. I’d been nervous for weeks about going, specifically because I didn’t know how to mingle without feeling awkward. So I came up with a question to give me an “opening”: lots of those wandering around were committee people, so I’d ask them to tell me a bit about their committee. I intercepted the incumbent President and asked her what her experiences as a committee member were, and what her favorite had been. That allowed me to feel a bit more at ease amongst my colleagues, meet others and actually learn a bit about the committees so I could choose which I wanted to join. Now I know which I plan to join, I can rub elbows a bit more and have already talked to some of the others a little more comfortably.

    1. khilde*

      I think you handled that very well! People love to talk about themselves and you used that to your advantage and to get some info for future reference.

  26. Sara*

    A few years back I ran into an old acquaintance, he immediately came up to me and started chatting me up. Embarrassingly I forgot his name and while he asked me all sorts of questions I was busy behind the scenes trying to recall his name. I started asking him questions one was, what are you up to now? He was ashamed to say just working as an elevator technician but hoped to change jobs soon. In a haste to make him feel better I blurted out that elevators were great, they help people go up… and down. And then I died. I’m pretty sure by his face I had made him feel worse and made myself look a fool. The convo ended shortly and till this day I can’t remember his name, and I’m sure I’ve become a laughing stock to him :/

    Thanks for the chance to play and share, no matter how lame I might sound.

      1. Katie*

        “Busy behind the scenes.” Love it! You can use it in so many situations… “I’m sorry, can you repeat that? I was busy behind the scenes.”

    1. miranda*

      this one still sticks in my head to this day, classic and totally not your fault, how many people do we get to meet who are elevator technicians after all?

  27. Jenesia*

    Well, I have red hair and I usually wear it BIG and curly. I was talking to a gentlemen about my businesses and how we can assist or collaborate on alot of great things. As, I was talking to him, my stomach began to bubble, so I kindly excused myself and went to the bathroom to release the gas. As I was coming out the bathroom, I dropped my phone, but the door was closing. Before I could grab my phone good, My hair got caught in the door, so needless to say, I was in a kneeling position and I couldn’t reach the handle… someone did quickly came to help but it was very embarrassing.

  28. Liz H*

    A decade ago, I (female biologist) worked as a researcher in a large hospital. One of my research projects involved working together with the Pulmonology (lung disease) department. In this hospital, the MD specialists were treated like gods, while PhD biologists like me were considered lesser creatures. After months of hard work, I was invited to give a presentation at the monthly Pulmonology research meeting, a great honor for a non-MD. Even better, I was allowed to join the pulmonologist MDs at their private dinner party preceding the meeting, at the most expensive restaurant in town. The dinner was great, with the best food and wines you can imagine. Nervous because I had to give my talk in an hour, I tried my best to network with the doctors, all of which were male, and all of which ignored me completely. After dinner, with still some time before the conference would start, all pulmonologists put down their napkins, and started smoking thick cigars. Yes, these were the same lung doctors who would tell their patients to quit smoking. I don’t handle smoke very well, and tried not to cough or show my bewilderment. Then, suddenly, all the MDs looked at me while one of them asked in a demeaning tone: “So, tell me, what does a biologist do? I thought you all were chasing around butterflies with little nets! ”

    Needless to say that my talk did not go too well.

  29. $.02*

    I am originally from another country, somewhere in Africa. My senior year in college my mentor took me to a huge networking event. By all appearances I looked like I belonged there until it was time to order some food. I was sitting at a table of 8 and I ordered a “burger.” The waitress looked at me all surprised and repeated asked me if I was sure, of which I answered YES. When she came back some twenty minutes later she brought me a “bagel” with some cream cheese, everyone at the table awkwardly stared at me… The waitress misunderstood my accent of “burger” to “bagel.” I enjoyed my bagel with cream cheese

  30. Ann*

    My most impressive networking story: Last summer I got a letter in the mail inviting me to apply for my dream job. I’ve been volunteering on committees with my national professional association for about five years now. Someone who chaired one of my committees suggested my name when asked for recommendations for this position. I applied, got the position, and I’m just finishing out my first 6 months on the job. There’s no way I would have had this opportunity without my professional network.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What I love about this is that it shows that you shouldn’t be discouraged if something doesn’t pay off immediately — you were volunteering there for five years before this happened!

      1. Ann*

        Oh, yes, this was a network built over time. I have contacts all over the country, who I’ve used for quick business questions here and there. It was only recently that people started talking about jobs and what the next step in my career might be. It’s still amazing to me that this nation-wide network somehow got me a job in my home state.

  31. Bob G*

    I once was asked to attend a dealers forum for our company. This was very early in my career and I had never attended a conference like this at all. Most of the others attending were all company owners or C-level executives and I was just a low level new employee, but the only one in my company who was able to fly out on short notice. I’m very quiet and reserved to start with, plus new to the industry and was surrounded by people who ran companies. I felt completely out of my element the entire time I was there so I was thrilled when the final lunch was being served and everyone would be leaving for the airport afterwards. I slip in to the luncheon, find an open seat at a table smile politely and I’m just counting the minutes to slip out and get home. Part of the final luncheon is a “champagne toast” so the waiters begin bringing around glasses of champagne for everyone. As the final closing remarks are being made by the head of the company hosting the conference a waiter dumps the entire tray of drinks he is carrying directly on my head and suit. Obviously the entire room reacts to the crashing noise and literally 10 hotel staff members rush in to “assist” me. Mortified does not even begin to describe my feelings. To top it off our suitcases had already been collected and sent ahead to the airport so I got to fly from the West Coast back to the East coast in a suit drenched in champagne. I shutter just thinking back on it.

    1. ChristineH*

      Yikes….this one would get my vote! I cannot imagine flying for 4-5 hours soaking wet and probably not smelling so great. That HAD to be miserable! :(

  32. The Other Dawn*

    I’ve had many awkward moments, because I am so darn good at putting my foot in my mouth. There is one that stands out above all others, though. Our bank was in the process of merging with another bank. During the merger process all the teller managers had to attend special meetings with people from other banks going through the same process. During the first meeting I did my best to get to know the other teller managers and branch managers (I’m an introvert and was very shy at the time). I then started talking to the woman who was running the meeting. She was the equivalent of a district manager and was around my age (early 20s). I was really impressed with the fact that she was at this stage of her career at such a young age, because I was aspiring to rise to the same level. I asked her how she got started, what were her responsibilities, etc. During our talk she mentioned how she was thinking of going back to finish up school (she said “school” not “degree”). Stupid me asks, “Oh? High school or college?” Thankfully she just said “college” and moved the conversation to another topic. Even though she didn’t acknowledge my gaffe with so much as a blink, I still felt like the biggest idiot ever and was praying a sinkhole would open up below me.

  33. Andrea*

    My husband is a dean at a college and I was asked a few years ago to be a community member on one if the college’s advisory boards in a field I worked in and am interested in working in again. We meet once or twice a year. However, we don’t share the same last name, but people who know I have a connection with the dean will address me as “Mrs. D…”. This somehow is subconsciously very apt to fluster me, because I always end up spewing out the SAME phrase to new board members each year: “Hi, I’m A, I am Dean D’s HUSBAND!”. I feel like cutting out my tongue…

    1. Ellie H.*

      I think that’s legit! It’s their fault for not knowing your last name!

      My mom is “Dr. [P]” and she hates it when people mistakenly address her as Mrs. [H]. She even corrects my friends if they address her as Mrs. [H ] by saying “Actually, it’s Dr. [P]” – this is a joke as she is totally NOT one of those people who wants to be called Dr., but it still embarrasses me!

  34. Erica*

    I got over my crippling social anxiety and attending a blogging/networking event on behalf of my employer – a children’s educational company.

    I got in touch with a few people, made a few friends, etc. Starting passing my business card around. I got invited to an event that evening, and threw my card in the fishbowl for the raffle – a bunch of the sponsors had put in gift baskets.

    Lo and behold, I won!

    Oh, did I win. About $300 worth of dildos, lube, vibrators and other sex toys. My name was gleefully plastered all over the twittersphere, along with pictures of my bounty.

    Needless to say, I was not able to capitalize on my newfound fame on behalf of my incredibly mortified and “how can we erase the internet?” employer.

  35. HH*

    I don’t think my stories will ever reach the level of awkwardness some of the above comments have mentioned (some stories are pretty interesting indeed!), but I wanted to share my embarrassing/weird networking experiences anyway.

    The first one happened at a networking event in Japan (the country might be relevant). I was a long term intern (one year as a junior engineer), and by the end my boss wanted to introduce me to the “art of networking”, Japanese-style. I ended up being the only female participant (excluding the event organizers and caterers), and the youngest by far. For two hours, I had to chat and discuss with people whose language I could barely speak, who were old enough to be my grandparents, and worse, I lost count of how many times I was called “hey pretty young lady, wanna come and chat?” by a man three times my age.

    Another time was after an international conference. I was supporting a friend, who lacked experience and confidence in networking, and helping her get some professional contacts in her field (which is only remotely related to mine). Anyway, I gave my card to a couple of people, and received many as well. Then, a few weeks later, we both got a follow-up email by a woman of some company in that field. The email was just some lines about how she hoped we travelled back safely and how happy she was to have talked with us… except we never met her. Long story short, I ended up digging all the business cards I got during that conference and realized that we indeed talked with a guy of the same organization. Seems he just gave our cards to his colleague to do the follow-up talk.

  36. Rana*

    This is perhaps not very impressive from the outside, but I impressed myself by doing it, so here goes.

    I’m not really a networker. I’m fine chatting with random people at public functions when we’re making small talk, but when it comes to selling my skills or business, I feel terribly awkward and self-conscious. As a result I either don’t say anything, or end up deprecating my work as not worth the other person’s interest.

    So I was very proud of myself this last winter. The big annual scholarly convention in my field was meeting in my city this time, and while I’m no longer active in the field, my current freelance business is aimed at providing support services to scholars and publishers. What I did was get a bunch of business cards printed up, and I hit the book fair. Over the course of the conference I managed, despite my anxiety, to meet with and talk to each of the people manning a booth at the fair. I gave out cards to about a third of them, got follow-up contact information from about two-thirds, and sent out a bunch of emails in the week after the conference, thanking the people I’d talked to, and sending queries to the contacts they’d suggested. I’ve already had one client contact with me as a result of this (just completed her project last month, and she was delighted with my work). Another asked me to do a test trial, and on the basis of that has indicated that they want me to do another paid project. Since up to this point the only jobs I’d gotten were through friends, this is a good sign.

    Mostly, though, I’m just very proud of myself for managing to talk to over a hundred total strangers, one at a time, about my work!

  37. Heather*

    So in my previous position, I was sent on a two-week trip to work with a partner organization on a few combined projects. The head of this smaller organization (let’s call him Bob) and I quickly hit it off, mainly because his mini-protege and I were previous friends. For the two weeks that I was working at their office, Bob was incredibly welcoming, helpful, and treated my colleague and I to several after-work dinners.

    I was so excited! Not only was Bob noticing me, a junior-level employee, but Bob was a great contact! He was well known throughout our area, and very old friends with the head of my organization. So, as the two weeks came to a close, I made sure to trade all contact information with him, and extend a very warm “if you’re ever in MY city, make sure to stop by…!” type of invitation. I then congratulated myself on my networking savvy, and headed on home.

    Well, Bob WAS a great contact. Our Executive Director was so impressed that Bob continually gave me the heads-up on upcoming project work, that I quickly became the point-person for all the cross-over work. The head of our organization even joked that he’d have to come to me to get anything done!

    And then… Bob came into town one night. At first, I thought it was great. He had invited me to dinner along with some others, and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to meet more senior people in my field. Until I realized that no, that dinner wasn’t the one I was invited to. It was the after-dinner drinks. Where Bob showed up extremely drunk. And then insisted on dancing. At a place with no dance floor. When I tried to politely drink a drink and leave, he ordered shots. And then proceeded to tell me all about how his wife had really wanted to marry someone else, but ended up with him because of family pressure.

    The night culminated with a very annoyed me listening to a very drunk Bob talk about how marriage is just “legalized prostitution.” To top it off, when I left to get a cab home, he followed me and proceeded to scream at a police officer on the way.

    I’ve since decided to enforce stricter boundaries with Bob.

    1. Heather*

      For a bit of context – I am a young female, and Bob is an older male. And for the record – I did not dance with him.

  38. Flynn*

    I wasn’t going to comment, but I was just reminded of one particular encounter.

    I’m a part time artist and occasionally go to conventions and have a stall. A couple of years ago, I was wandering around the other stalls on break, and I passed a wig one. Their most prominent wig was a very colourful one, almost identical to a painting I had done and that was currently dominating my stall, so I laughed and mentioned that to the lady. Turns out she was a bit deaf… cue slightly awkward conversation, but I thought I’d managed to navigate it successfully. Half an hour later, she turns up at my stall, with her daughter, who asks about the business card I’d apparently offered to do! (Ended with them admiring the painting and taking a free print, and me never hearing from them again).

    1. Flynn*

      People asking about commissions is generally awkward, actually. There’s always this mismatch between ‘I like your pictures, I want some painted just for me’ and ‘sure, this is how much it will cost and how long it will take me’. And I’m still not used to the idea of people actually wanting to give me money for art!

  39. Anonymous in London*

    Mine is nowhere near as funny as some of those posted, but I was reminded of an incident a couple of years ago, not long after I’d started with my company. Note I am also quite introverted and not great at being the new person trying to break into an established group.

    So anyway, a member of my team was part of a professional networking group which brought together other comp people from our sector for a morning meeting every 6 months. I was in the process of taking over from him as he was moving to a new role, so he suggested I attend the next meeting in his place. So I show up (it was hosted at one of our competitor’s offices), get to reception and find myself waiting with other attendees for the meeting. Introductions are made, and one of the attendees, an older guy (I am female and back then was in my late 20s) says: “You know, this is a very close knit group with a lot of trust, when one of us can’t make it we don’t usually send anyone else as a replacement because nobody knows them and we’re not comfortable talking about our usual topics”. I was taken aback but just smiled politely and didn’t comment. The meeting went fine and clearly not everybody else there had the same weird views that he did! Shortly afterwards he left his company so I didn’t see him at any future events, but I went on to build some great relationships with others through that group, and made a point of never being so un-welcoming to new members!

    1. Vicki*

      Perhaps the man thought you were only there for one night as a “temporary” fill-in? Not understanding that you were taking over the job from your predecessor?

  40. Anonymous*

    I am currently a headhunter in Tokyo, but the way I got this job- through round-about networking, is kind of funny.

    To put myself through school, I did a lot of modeling while I was here. At the time I was also job hunting, and as a model got invited to pretty high-profile networking events and parties as well so I figured it was killing two birds with one stone. Since I speak Japanese, there were several times when I was invited to appear on various talk shows as a token foreign girl.

    I show up for one such show and the topic of the show was cultural differences.

    A lot of the things discussed were pretty standard- what is your favorite food, do all Americans really have guns. The one that I will never forget or live down was cultural differences for body hair.

    I was speaking in Japanese about how in America, generally women depilate…well…everywhere. Anyway, my Japanese at the time was not that great and due to a tendency in Japanese to drop pronouns I accidentally told the entire COUNTRY about my hair removal practices down south.

    Fast forward months later at a networking event, I ran into one of the guys who had been on the show with me. Suffice to say, he remembered me! I mentioned that I was looking for a job, and he worked for a new start-up recruiting firm and invited me in for an interview.

    Believe it or not, I got the job at a fantastic company- one of the biggest in Japan and I am supposedly the first foreign western woman to work here.

    After the interview, I found out that the ENTIRE office had watched me talking about my hair removal practices. It turns out that, although hideously embarrassing, they figured if I could talk about THAT on national TV then headhunting would be easy for me.

    Anyway, the show re-aired last week, and I’ve spent the last few days remembering my massive faux pas as inevitably people say, “Hey! I saw you on TV!”

    If that isn’t the most embarrassing but well-ending networking story, I don’t know what is.

    1. OP here*

      Yeah, in the end it did! Being able to speak Japanese is essential at my job, and I’m sure they wouldn’t have hired me without it. That said if I had a dime for every awkward moment I’ve had because I’m not a native speaker…well, I could retire!

  41. Another Ellie*

    I had been trying to connect with a very senior member of a field I’ve been considering entering. We were vaguely connected by a friend of a friend, but every time she emailed me, it was to say some variation of “we’ll have to get together, but I don’t have my schedule with me right now.” After a couple rounds of this, I assumed that she was trying to politely dodge me, and I gave up. Then, at about 11pm one night I suddenly get an email from her that said basically “You can call me tomorrow at 4:15. I have twenty minutes.” This was great news…except for the little annoyance that I had just developed an *extremely* bad bladder infection, and had basically spent the last two days running between my desk and the toilet. I was hoping that by the time of the phone call I wouldn’t be in such bad straits, and I toned back my liquid consumption that afternoon, made sure to pee right before the appointed time, etc.

    I was debating telling her that I had an infection and might need to step away to take care of business, but I decided that I was unlikely to have a problem with only a 20 minute phone call. Unfortunately, “I have twenty minutes” really meant, I will talk to you for twenty minutes, and if you prove interesting I will happily talk to you longer. By about 45 minutes in I was bursting and in pain, and all I could think of was hanging up and running to the loo. We had moved into the point where she was inviting me to ask any follow up questions of her, but I was so distracted I could barely even get myself to read the questions I had pre-prepared, much less come up with an elegant way to end the call, or to explain my situation. After several bouts of awkward silence and her encouragingly telling me I could ask her anything, I finally got to the point where I couldn’t wait any longer, so I gasped out, “I’m sorry, but I really, really have to pee!” threw down my phone, and ran. When I returned to the phone, she had hung up. THAT made for an awkward follow up/thank you email!

  42. Judy*

    I loved my first job out of school nearly 20 years ago, but was very much out of my depth because I moved several thousand miles away from anywhere I’d ever been. As a young female engineer, I was asked to volunteer for the FIRST robotics team for my fairly small company. I was involved in the building of the robot, and was selected to attend the national competition. While at the competition, an older guy from a nearby team kept looking at me. Finally he approached me and asked me some things about myself. He was from a very large company in my home state. It turns out that he was from my home town, and was in my mother’s 5th grade homeroom in one of the first few years she taught. We looked so much alike at the same age, he recognized me. Our two teams talked quite a bit after that. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but about 3 weeks after I returned from the competition, the phone on my desk rang, and it was him. He asked if I was going to send him a resume. Our two companies used the same CAD software, and I was a part time CAD trainer. Long story short, in a few months, I ended up moving fairly close to home. That experience volunteering to work with the high school kids changed my life.

  43. Em*

    On my first flight to my company’s headquarters about 5 years ago, I accidentally bumped the leg of the gentleman sitting to my right. I was nervous about flying and attempting to get something out of my bag on the floor. I apologized profusely, as he did not seem amused by my accidental nudging of his leg. Ended up that we talked most of the flight to the headquarters location and about 10 minutes before the flight was scheduled to land, he asked me what it would take for him to get me to work for his company. It seemed awkward at the time, especially having given the earlier part of the flight, but, we still connect to this day (though I haven’t yet gone to work for his company).

  44. Lauren*

    So I worked for the Director of Sales & Marketing at my first company as a Customer Service person first, and since I was the only office person that knew how to use a computer, she took me under her wing to complete a lot of marketing tasks. I helped her with all the marketing initiatives for the company, email, direct mail, social, blogging, PPC, website, etc. I was promoted to office manager before she was let go based on the boss attributing the 100k a year sales increases to my efforts versus hers. Strategy (her job) meant less to him versus doing the marketing tasks (my job mostly). After she left, we tried 4-5 part time marketing directors that didn’t work out (3 weeks here, a month here, another month, PT, never came back, etc.) , the boss gave me the director title since I was doing everything anyway and teaching these “directors” all the programs in place. Fast forward 8 years = the original director finds me on linkedin, and yeah if you look at our profiles side by side, it looks like I took her director’s job 5 months after she left. The timing looks so bad, like I stole her job and she commented on it. Not what really happened considering there was an effort to fill her old role with another MBA star with 20 years experience, and I didn’t fill that bucket since I was a 24 year new BA grad with no real world experience, but the boss again valued work tasks completed (me) that lead to sales versus talking about tasks (strategy) and gave me the gig 5 months after she left.

  45. Charles*

    Not really an awkward networking story; but, this is the reason that I have come to hate networking functions!

    In the last couple of years I have attended a few networking functions hosted by a couple of different organizations; in each and every one folks had the attitude of“you’re not useful in getting me a job; so, I don’t want to talk with you.”

    The last event that I attended (over a year ago) one person even said: “Why am I wasting my time talking to folks who are out of work like me.” she mumbled as she walked away from me.

    It is my guess that so many folks are acting this way because they don’t realize that networking is NOT about “hire me now!” Rather it is about connecting with folks for professional reasons which may or may not include employment. But, job seeking advice tells everyone you have to network to get a job – they just don’t fully understand that networking is an ongoing process; not a one time event like responding to a job posting. (Does that make sense?)

    This poor attitude is one reason why I would like to attend a “speed networking” function – to see if they are any better.

  46. Yup*

    When I was 21 and working at my first “proper job” at a big company, there was a slightly older girl (28 or so) in another department who seemed very savvy and connected. I was in awe of her industry skills and all the higher-ups she knew. She was friendly with some of my coworkers, so we’d chat occasionally. One day she sent me an email invite for coffee. I was thrilled at the chance to pick her brain and ask for career advice.

    Turned out she wanted to sell me Amway.

  47. Jeremy*

    I’ve made my fair share of networking blunders, but only one of them left me trapped, unable to escape the awkward silence.

    At one of my professions largest conferences, I was attending an evening networking gala with several of my friends. Everyone had a free booze token, so we all jumped into the line to claim a free drink. I was at the end of our little group of friends, and decided to talk to the person behind me … networking and all that.

    I turned around and introduced myself by name. The person to whom I had just introduced myself simply said ‘Hi, nice to meet you’, and then looked at me, expecting more. I found it more than a little odd that a name wasn’t given in return, so I simply asked for it.
    In return for my question I received a very odd look, and I had no idea what it meant. This person looked at me, and put on a very surprised tone, and said “I’m so-and-so the president of the association”.

    Immediately I recalled seeing the face in the program and about 15 professional magazines over the last few years.

    This person was clearly quite shocked that I even had to ask for a name, and at that point I had no idea what to say. Of course, we were in a line, and I didn’t want to just bolt, or just turn back to my friends trying to ignore the awkwardness. So I just stood there, looking, not saying anything.

    It could have been a fantastic networking opportunity, having the president of the association stuck in a line with me. Instead I turned into 10 minutes of staring and silence. Oops.

    1. Blinx*

      This story reflects poorly on the prez, not you. No matter how famous a person is, it is just polite to introduce yourself to someone you haven’t met. And clearly, HE missed a networking opportunity, not you.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. People can’t just assume that everyone knows who they are, especially when it’s the president of a professional organization. The fault lies with the president, not Jeremy.

        1. Jeremy*

          Be that as it may, it was still remarkably awkward, and was definitely a failure of my memory, if not the president’s overblown sense of recognizability.

          1. Tax Nerd*

            Hell’s bells. I read somewhere that Jackie Kennedy Onassis wouldn’t assume that people knew who she was. If she was getting her drycleaning, she would spell Onassis for people, rather than assume that they knew.

  48. NonProfiter*

    This is a *women’s* networking story, for sure:

    I moved to Philadelphia a few years ago and right off the bat got a great job in the nonprofit field in a really well-respected org. I wasn’t familiar with Philadelphia, although my family lives in the area, about an hour away from the city, and my sister went to Bryn Mawr, on the Main Line. Just after starting my job, my organization was asked to participate in an Arts Walk tabling event on the UPenn campus and I and another staff person went.

    As I was working the event a man I recognized came up to my table. He was a professor at Penn that my sister had taken a course from, UPenn and Bryn Mawr having some credit reciprocity and student exchange options. I knew him from my sister’s graduation party! I was so excited to be able to make the connection, having only been in Philly for 6 weeks and being very proud of my job I re-introduced myself and caught him up on my sister’s news and he even slightly remembered me from my sister’s graduation party. I noticed that besides being a prof, his nametag showed he was also some high-up arts administrator at UPenn as well. He said it was nice chatting with you and I’ll be back in a bit.

    Well, sure enough, twenty minutes later, he was shepherding a blonde woman and a little entourage around her, and they made their way table by table over to where I had set up for my org. The blonde woman was not wearing a nametag. I was pleased to see the prof again, but I really had no clue what was going on.

    The blonde woman asked me what my org was about and I gave our elevator speech and then she stuck her hand out to shake, and I introduced myself, extremely proud of my big-girl job and org, “I’m NonProfiter, the Basketweaving Associate at the Fancy Organization.” When she said nothing back, just continued to smile politely and shake my hand, to my infinite regret I said to her, “And you are . . . ?”

    “Amy Gutmann.”

    I still had no idea, so I just smiled back and released from the handshake. The little group moved on. My coworker said, pretty kindly, considering what I’d done: “She’s the president of UPenn, basically the most powerful woman in Philadelphia.”

    I can laugh about it now, but I still cringe.

    1. Blinx*

      Again, as in the story above yours, it seems that when people reach a certain level of renown, they just assume the EVERYone knows who they are! Do they enjoy creating these cringe-worthy moments? Luckily, there are many famous people who are gracious enough to introduce themselves to others, putting everyone at ease.

      Also, the prof who brought her over should have made introductions. What is wrong with these people?

  49. “Please Don’t Throw Up on Me”…*

    …or “How to Force Someone to Network with You”.

    The first time I flew on a small commuter plane I discovered that the anti-nausea drug that ‘barely’ worked for me on large planes was totally inadequate for a small plane. I was seated next to a man in a crisp suit and tie who said he was taking the 45 minute flight to get to an 8:00 AM business meeting, and we chatted a bit about nothing in particular while waiting for takeoff. Ten seconds into takeoff he said, “You just turned green! I really don’t want you to throw up!” and proceeded to give me a complete run-down of his job as a district manager, his company, his company’s goals, his own goals and ambitions, and anything else he could think of in an effort to distract me. It turned out that I actually knew someone in another state who worked for the same company. After we landed he thanked me for not throwing up on him and I thanked him for helping me!

  50. R.S.*

    A coworker of mine has a long family legacy at the large university we work for. When she first started here, she was in food service and was involved in a large dinner for the regents and influential donors of the time. She had ambitions to climb the higher ed ladder, so she was excited for the opportunity to network with the bigwigs.

    During the dinner she was able to chat with one of the regents, who thought he knew who her father was. The regent thought that he was Robert Jones, Dean of the Medical School. So the regent asked her, “Oh! Is your father a Dean?” She misinterpreted this as him asking if her father’s name was Dean. “No,” she said. “He’s a Dick!”

    His first name is Richard.

    She left quite a first impression.

  51. Dorothy*

    Impressive: (possibly)

    I am an attorney, 5 years out of law school. Almost a year ago, I interviewed and was hired at a small firm in a specialized area, a job which required weekly court appearances in at least 2 counties. There is a set group of attorneys who are ALWAYS at those dockets, and I got to know them — we discussed the law, womens’ fashions, kids, pets, etc, while waiting for our turn in front of the judge.

    By the time I realized that my firm was very dysfunctional and that I needed to get out, I knew some of these people well. I got interviews with two different firms in that same specialized area — though the interviewers didn’t know me personally, their associates had seen me frequently at dockets (and, I learned, told the interviewers that I was capable in court and they liked me). Word apparently got to my employer, however, and I was let go less than a week after that first interview.

    Subsequently, thanks to the nature of this small group of attorneys, I learned that everybody had known for a long time that X firm was dysfunctional and not a good place to work! I got one email out of the blue from an attorney I didn’t think I knew well at all, who had heard I was no longer with X firm and told me about a couple of job opportunities, which was nice, but neither panned out for me.

    I hate asking for favors, but began to get desperate. I made a list of the attorneys I met, thinking about who knew me best, and ended up emailing two people, informing them that I was no longer with X firm, and that I am looking for work in Y and/or Z specialized areas, and would appreciate it if they could let me know if they heard of any openings. One responded that he certainly would, he wished me luck; the second responded that she would send my email to a firm that may be hiring. Less than an hour later, her partner emailed me — the partner I had emailed was going to be retiring soon, and they were considering looking for help!

    I got the job after an informal interviews, with no public posting ever having been made. The areas of law practiced by this firm are more suitable to me than the job from which I was let go, the attorneys have a better reputation, and the office is more “geographically desirable”! This was all due to the 7 months I spent making friends with attorneys while working for a miserable firm — now I’ll be looking to build my practice to contribute to my new firm.

  52. Mark*

    I went to a networking event at a bar a few years ago for openly gay professionals. I had been looking for a new job for a while, and I thought, why not? Let’s see what happens. Let me begin by saying I am a graphic designer, so I was looking to meet marketing professionals or other designers at this thing.

    I walked in the door and was asked if I was single or taken. After telling them I was single, I was given a name tag with my name and profession on it with a green dot to let everyone know I was single. I was around 27 at the time, and I think I am a pretty good looking guy. I went and ordered a drink and walked around.

    I am so shy when it comes to starting a conversation, so I waited for people to come to me. This guy who is around my age comes up to me and said he owns his own paper company, and that he always works with freelance designers. He may have some work for me. I was pretty excited about it, and we talked for a while. His name tag had a green dot on it, but then he started telling me how he has a boyfriend of 3 years, and they are buying a house together soon. However, they have an open relationship, because they both miss “new sex”. So the conversation went from a great networking possibility to this guy wanting me to go home with him for his “new sex”. Yeah, no thanks.

    I left him to grab another drink and was stopped on my way over by a guy who was probably over 10 years older than I was, and not my type at all. He introduced himself and talked about how he worked at an executive level at some big company. Then he asked to buy me a drink. When I go out and someone offers to buy me a drink that I’m not into, I kindly say no thanks. I just don’t want people to get some kind of expectation if I accept a drink from them. It has happened before. This guy was really persistent and I finally just agreed to let him buy the drink. He took out a big wad of money and was flipping through the bills trying really hard to impress me. We stood and talked for a bit, but I could tell he wasn’t trying in the slightest to help me with my job search. He introduced me to all of his friends there, and they kept telling me how he is the nicest guy, and how great he is. The guy was trying to put his arm around me the entire time or put his hand on my back. I was so uncomfortable and ended up making an excuse to go to the bathroom.

    I downed my drink and went to leave. Before I left, the first guy who wanted “new sex” stopped to talk to me before I left. He said he completely understood if I wasn’t interested in going home with him, but definitely wanted to know if I was still into freelancing with him. I said sure. It’s good to have connections. So we were exchanging information when the guy who bought me a drink came over acting really catty and asks me “Who’s this? Why are you talking to him? I thought we were talking?”

    I said, “It’s a networking event. And I don’t know you other than you bought me a drink. I don’t owe you anything, unless you want your money back for the drink.”

    I left and I don’t think I’ve gone back to one of those gay networking events since.

  53. Kate*

    Ah yes – it was my first job out of college, and in my first week I happened to ride the elevator with the Director of our organization. I introduced myself and told her how excited I was to join the team, and when I told her my name she said “Oh I’ll remember that, that’s my daughter’s name!”
    I carried on for the next month or so, pleased with not making a fool of myself, until I joined a networking breakfast with a few members of our organization and several other local non-profits. Our Director was making the rounds, and when she approached my table she introduced herself to me. Startled, and still green enough to have my ego bruised at being found so forgetable, I blurted out: “Oh no, we met in an elevator… and I have your daughter’s name!” When I think of her startled expression and confused smile, I remain mortified to this day.

  54. Jess*

    The worst experience I have had was at an organizational meeting at the company I work at. They fly everyone out from all of the different locations to the headquarters in the city I live in. At the meeting, I had the eh, honor, of announcing the recipients of the CEO Excellence awards. One of the recipients names was MyGnia. Now if you say this out loud to yourself without thinking about it, in say a setting where you have no time to think about the pronunciation first…you may accidentally pronounce the G and it sounds awfully like a body part. After I came off stage one of the other speakers who knew this woman politely informed me that the G is silent. Thank god the meeting was in a dark auditorium where no one could see the embarrassment across my face.

    1. Nodumbunny*

      That is NOT your fault! Jeez, her parents should be the ones embarassed for giving her that unfortunate creative spelling!

  55. Incognito*

    I started my career as a technical recruiter for a third-party agency and part of my recruiting activities involved attending computer development user groups to try and find candidates. Since the user groups were designed for, well, users, I was instructed to do everything I could to blend in and appear developer-like until the moment when I would make my miraculous reveal and start woo-ing.

    One of the first user groups I attended was also being sponsored by one of our competitors at their headquarters and my boss had stressed how important it was that they not find out that we were “infiltrating” the group to poach candidates. So, decked out in my best “I’m-a-developer-not-a-recruiter” duds, I show up only to discover that the session is a paired programming work group. In minutes, everyone broke off into pairs and prepared to spend the whole evening developing in Groovy code.

    Needless to say, my partner was not impressed with my development skills and my cover was blown. I spent the whole time watching him code until I could finally leave in shame.

  56. Laura*

    During my last semesters of college, I was participating in campus interviews, and attending office tours of the Big 6 accounting firms (now the Big 4). These events always required proper business attire. I was your typical starving student, completely broke all the time, so to save a few pennies, I purchased a super cheap pair of generic store-brand panty hose to wear with my one classy suit. The first time I wore them, during the office tour, I felt the waistband of the pantyhose kind of fold over, which is normally a sign that your pantyhose are about to start creeping down and will require an adjustment. Not this time. As soon as that waistband folded over, my pantyhose rolled down like lightning, and I had to quickly stick my hand into the pocket of my blazer and grab them before they ended up around my ankles. The only restroom was out in the elevator lobby, and badge access was required to get back into the office area. So I spent the entire office tour, including a meet-and-greet with various members of the firm, with one hand in my blazer pocket holding up my pantyhose. After that, no matter how broke I was, I would always pay the extra money for good pantyhose!

    1. Camellia*

      Oh my goodness! Hooray for coping so brilliantly. After this, nothing should rattle you!

  57. Nodumbunny*

    I’m an introvert too and although I do just fine when interacting with folks in my specific realm of expertise and am actually fairly far along in my career and considered quite articulate, when it comes to the more political events my husband attends as part of his networking, I’m much happier being his satellite as he is an extrovert and always makes it much easier on me. A big fundraiser came up that was going to feature a well-known national politician and my husband couldn’t attend. I put on my brave face and went alone. At the reception before the speeches started, I saw no familiar faces and ended up standing by the doors, sipping my drink and pretending as though I was waiting for someone. Finally I spotted someone across the room who was a friend/colleague of my husband’s. Relieved, I scooted across the room to say hi. We talked for about one minute, with him looking distractedly over my shoulder, until he said “well, sorry, but I need to go talk to (so-and-so), he’s (big important deal that could be of more help than me).” I was so embarassed! It was all better once we were seated at our tables and I easily struck up a conversation with my table-mates, but I will never put myself in that situation again. Too hard on the ego!

    1. fposte*

      There’s a great Christine Lavin song, “Trade Up,” about this behavior: “There’s gotta be someone more important than me/ that you could be talking to here/ someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone/ who could bolster your career.”

  58. Beth Robinson*

    I was at an industry conference and sat down to listen to a presentation. When it was over I introduced myself to the gentleman next to me whose name tag showed he worked for the same company I did (which was definitely big enough it was not surprising we would not know each other.)

    Then I asked what he did for the company.

    He stared at me for a moment and then said “I’m the general manager of xxx division.”

    I turned red, because I’d even seen him in the newsletter but he used a nickname there and his full name was on his name tag and he looked different than his photo and well…. I don’t think I made a fool of myself in my response but I don’t remember it very well so who knows. At least he wasn’t the GM of the division I worked for.

  59. Nodumbunny*

    Oh, Laura’s wardrobe malfunction above reminded me of my similar wardrobe malfunction during an extremely public event. Not exactly a networking story, but I offer it for your amusement. I once got to attend a inaugural ball for a new POTUS (don’t be impressed, I was a lowly congressional staffer). I bought a short sequined dress and an accompanying “shaper” garment to wear under it. Something about the friction between the lining of the dress and the shaper garment caused my dress to spend all night twisting up my body until, if I didn’t excuse myself to the restroom to untwist it, my dress would’ve been up around my waist. I kid you not. So my whole evening at this once-in-a-lifetime event with my then-boyfriend was spent trying not to walk too much (because any movement made it twist) and excusing myself to forcefully untwist my dress from around my upper thighs.

  60. Charles*

    Not sure which comment to post this under as there are so many that it fits; So, I’ll post it on its own line.

    A lot of these awkward networking situations are clearly the higher-up acting like someone should just know who they are. That’s just plain exasperating!

    While it can certainly feel awkward, what it really means to me is that some managers simply don’t have decent interpersonal skills – and no one should feel awkward because of a manager’s shortcomings – a manager with good people skills should know how to make others feel at ease in these types of situations.

    1. fposte*

      Totally with you on this, Charles. I’m hoping that some of the shock was retroactively imagined by the embarrassed employee, because man, people who think that others should know them on sight–and, to make it worse, don’t introduce themselves? Need a big dose of perspective.

    2. Liz*

      I agree no one should assume themselves to be instantly recognizable – it’s tacky. To be fair, though, not everyone is comfortable with a self-introduction that could sound like bragging. It would feel a little awkward to me to have to say, “I’m Liz, the CEO,” every time I shake someone’s hand. I have met people who do that and it always seems to come off like, “I don’t want you to waste a single second of our acquaintance unaware of my status.”

      1. Charles*

        Liz, I agree that not everyone is comfortable with self-introductions. But, these are managers that we are talking about – isn’t that part of their job? If they come across as self-important they need to learn a better way to introduce themselves. And they should have self-assessment skills to know how they come across!

        P.S. sorry, not looking for an arguement or anything. I just hold higher-ups to a higher standard than the rest of us. That’s why they get paid the BIG bucks!

        1. Liz*

          That’s true :) If they’re going to make 240x the average worker’s salary then I guess they can take the time to figure out how to let people know who they are without sounding like a jerk.

  61. Amy*

    When I had my first corporate job after getting out of retail, it was during that post-9/11 recession when companies didn’t have money for meetings, trips, etc. It was about a year and half later when we finally could have a departmental meeting (our department was spread out nationwide). I had regular interaction with the northeast team (being based in NYC) but never got to meet anyone else in person, so I was excited to go and put names to faces and so on. My boss commented after we got back that she didn’t see me all week because I was off networking with everyone else! My thinking was that I see the NE team all the time – I wanted to branch out.

  62. AndYouAre...?*

    I was new to a company (1 month in) and the professional work environment (I was right out of college), when I got invited to go to the company’s national conference reserved for senior management and, sometimes, HR reps. The company was recently expanding their college recruitment focus so, being a recruiter for them, I was also invited to a brunch between the company’s Advisory Board and the HR team at the conference. We were meant to network with the Board and get across how important this new focus of college recruitment would be to the company. My position was brand new. I wanted to ensure it would stay around, so I was ready to impress. I sat down next to an elderly gentleman. We introduced ourselves and started talking about my college experience. Turns out we both went to the same college, and both were on the collegiate sailing team (obviously years apart). I tend to be not so good at remembering people’s names, and I had gotten so caught up in our similarities on conversations, 15 min in I had already forgotten his name. I asked him if he still lived in Wisconsin and he looked a little shocked at the question, but responded that he lives in New York now (where are headquarters resides). I went on to ask him more about his job with the company at which point more people sat down and joined our conversation was interrupted. This was also the point that my HR director (who probably overheard some of my questions) pulled me aside and informed me he was the CEO of the company. I felt so awkward the rest of the meal. He HAD introduced himself, but obviously I was not completely familiar with who everyone was in the company yet.

    Every encounter after that during my time with the company he made it a point to introduce himself and say his title when he saw me.

    I now make a point to review the “about us” webpages at any new company I am at before a big meeting or conference.

  63. Hollis*

    I was invited to join a lunch with the managing partner, a senior associate, and our new client. All of them are male and I was not only the only female, but also the most junior person on the team. During lunch, the managing partner turned to the client and said, “You have to check out the court reporters we are using on this case – we picked them specifically because they are hot!” I didn’t say anything but the senior associate was clearly embarrassed by this exchange.

  64. Suz*

    I’m all for meeting potential clients in order to pitch our business to them. I was surprised, however, when the head of my department called me on my cell phone ten days after my baby was born, asking me to attend a pitch the very next day! My baby was nursing every 2 hours and this meeting was not nearby, so my husband got out of work, drove me and the baby to the meeting location, and I nursed the baby in the car right before the meeting (but in the far end of the parking lot of course). The meeting ran long and my husband had to walk around the building with a hungry, crying baby until I showed up. Fortunately, I was not leaking through my clothes because that would have made the situation far worse.

  65. Malissa*

    I attend an annual regional conference every year for my profession. The first year I went I sat alone at breakfast because I knew nobody. The speaker for breakfast told the crowd to network and mingle and to sit with people they didn’t know for the remainder of the meals so that we could get to know others.
    Great idea I thought. So lunch came and I approached a table where there were two empty seats. I noticed everybody at the table was from the same organization. I politely asked if I could sit at one of the empty seats. I was rather rudely told “no, it’s taken.” Then the person went back to talking with the group. I could have crawled under the table and died.
    Luckily another lady sitting a few tables away had seen what went on and flagged me down to sit with her. She laughed and said, “They did the same thing to me.” We then sat their together and smiled at other people who looked a little lost and welcomed them to our table.
    As I have gone back every year since I’ve always remembered this and I still smile and welcome people to my table at meals. I’ve met a bunch of great people this way.

  66. Awkward Moment*

    This isn’t strictly networking, but it’s kind of funny. I was asked to do a presentation at a local chamber of commerce training event. One of the group members emailed me to ask for a bio so he could introduce me (the night before the presentation) and I promptly sent him a professional, one-paragraph write up. So the next day, he reads what I sent and then says, “But I did a little research on my own, and checked out Awkward’s Facebook page, and this is what I found . . . .” Now, it just so happens I have an unusual name. And it also happens that there is one other person in the US who shares my name. I’m a west-coast, mid-career professional. My namesake is an east-coast college freshman. With a picture. And she over-shares. And my own searchable Facebook is super-generic, geared only at a work audience.

    So the guy proceeds to tell everyone about my “200” likes, including bands I’ve never heard of and activities I’ve never done. I’m completely unsure how to handle it, so I just smile tensely while he goes on. He finishes, “And one more interesting thing–she always has to check behind the shower curtain!”

    So I give my presentation and field questions at the end. As I’m wrapping up, the intro guy says, “So I have to ask. Why do you have to look behind the shower curtain?” At that point I say that I’m sorry, he must have confused me with another Awkward Moment on Facebook, because that’s not anything I posted and my actual Facebook page is very boring compared to what he read. The guy just looks at me with this funny expression like he doesn’t believe me and doesn’t say anything. I really don’t know how the whole thing came off to everyone in the audience.

    The next day I emailed him to say thanks and that I really did want him to know that wasn’t my page–some of the things she had written were very unprofessional and I didn’t want him to think that it was me. I never heard back from him. To this day, I don’t know why he thought it was okay to look up someone’s personal Facebook page as source material for a friendly professional introduction–even if it had been me. I supposed I should have spoken up sooner, but I didn’t want to embarrass him. Would that sentiment had gone both ways!

  67. KDD*

    Many years ago I was attending a breakfast event put on by a local Sales Networking Group. Just prior to breakfast I was talking to a gentleman also seated at my table. He introduced himself and I said “oh, just like the NHL player. My nickname for him is..” and I proceeded to exclaim my not so flattering interpretation of his name. After which he simply said to me, in a very deadpan tone: “yeah, that’s me.” I’m not sure if there is even a term for the deep shade of red that I know that I turned. Needless to say the rest of the morning was quite awkward!

  68. Katrina*

    I’ve always been an early riser, always been a people person, always been a go-getter – thought I had most things nailed down. Nope. My first conference ever without a manager was a networking nightmare because of one guy that I didn’t know how to handle.

    Up early, dressed, ready for a day of training – head down to breakfast. I’m the first person to walk in the banquet room and I think I’m going to be able to get some quite time in before this whole thing starts. No dice. Guy walks in and sits down right next to me – in a room with 40 tables – and says, “Hey, you think I should change clothes? I wore these on the flight out here last night and haven’t been back to my room since I checked in. Partied, ya know?” First thing he says. No introductions, no niceties, nothing.

    Long story short, he took a picture of my feet the next day at breakfast (without even trying to hide the fact that’s what he was doing), inappropriately asked me how he could get laid by women my age (to which I replied, “I have no clue. Don’t ask me again.”) and used my name tag to figure out which practice I worked for and called me for months. The receptionist eventually knew by the area code ringing in who it was and that I was “out of the office.” Used our company email system to track me down so he could email me pictures of the motorcycle he was thinking of buying ’cause the chicks dig it. He was in his late 50’s, I was in my very early 20’s, and we literally reside 5 or 6 states apart. WEIRD.

    However, the other very respectful, very nice gentlemen who spent three days of conference saving me from him were great and I’m still personal Facebook friends with them, like four years later :)

  69. Liz*

    I was scheduled to meet a new acquaintance at 4 on a Friday, let’s call him Jack, for a happy hour drink and the chance to talk about my job search in my new town. I found the restaurant about 15 minutes early and sat down in a small booth near the front of the room to wait with a book and a glass of wine (I always carry a book and I was at a particularly gripping part in a fabulous novel).

    Jack walked in a few minutes later, about 10 til 4, and said, “Oh, you’re EARLY!” Just then, someone I hadn’t met, let’s call him Joe, walked into the restaurant and stopped at my booth. Jack introduced us to each other and said, “Well, we should sit down,” looking at Joe. Thinking that Jack was nicely trying to expand my network by giving me a chance to hang out with new people, I offered to find a larger table since the booth where I sat could only fit two people.

    Jack followed me to a larger table at the back of the restaurant and said with a weird emphasis, “I think we need to talk WITHOUT YOU for a while, but I’ll meet you soon. Are we good?” Trying not to sound shocked, I said something totally smooth like, “Sure. Whatever you want! I’ll just be here… you know…reading…” Jack gave me a weird look, which I thought was totally unfair because who invites you for a drink and then asks you to wait alone while he talks to cooler friends?

    Then Jack and Joe sat at the table RIGHT NEXT TO MINE. The restaurant was small and they were so close I could have reached out and mussed their hair! Two new people joined them and they all ordered a beer.

    After about 30 minutes, I had finished my glass of wine and it just felt too awkward to order another while I waited for Jack to finish whatever it was he was doing. I stood up, leaned toward Jack’s table – NO ONE but Jack would even look at me – and announced brightly, “I need to leave to meet friends in another part of town pretty soon, so let’s do this again some other time!”

    That’s when Jack, looking completely puzzled, said, “Weren’t we supposed to meet at 5?”

    We were.

    I had accidentally entered the appointment in my calendar an hour early, and he had scheduled a work-related brainstorming session with his coworkers at the same restaurant an hour before we were supposed to meet.

    Now I run into Jack, Joe, and the two other strangers from the table at almost every industry networking event. They always say “Hi,” and as they do I swear that I can see the wheels turning in their heads, “Where do I know you from… Oh yeah! You were that girl from the restaurant…”

    So embarrassing.

  70. Lesa*

    Several years ago when I was between jobs, I was persuaded by friends to lead a day trip to a ski resort. (Don’t get excited…there are no ski accidents in this networking story.)
    On the bus, I met a lot of really nice people and got into discussions with a few of them about my job search. One man gave me his card and offered to introduce me to a manager at the bank where he worked in case I’d be interested in working there. He had been impressed that I was active with the Ski Club and with other activities while I was job hunting and impressed by how I handled a couple of issues that came up during the trip.
    So a few days later I called and he put me in touch with the manager. She and I set up an appointment for an “informational” interview. I hadn’t worked in banking before and this was an opportunity for me to learn more about the field and potential opportunities. She was doing her coworker a favor.
    I arrived for my appointment and was directed to the assistant. The assistant immediately gave me a job application. I explained that I was only there to talk with the manager, not interview for a job. The assistant said that she would only let me speak to the manager after I completed the job application. I tried to avoid completing the application and told her that I wasn’t applying for a job. Still she wouldn’t budge. I tried further to explain that I was there for a meeting, not a job interview. The assistant refused even to call the manager to let her know I had arrived for my appointment until I completed the application. I was frustrated, but had to complete the application to get by the gatekeeper. Once I had completed it and showed the application to the assistant, she finally called the manager to let her know, ten minutes late, that I was there for my appointment. She showed me into the office and gave the manager my job application. The manager was confused by the application. After the assistant left I explained to the manager that her assistant had been quite adamant that only by filling out the application would I be allowed to keep my appointment. She, the manager, seemed amused and we went on to have a pleasant conversation. I learned enough to know that I was probably not interested in banking as a career. It was definitely not one of my most successful networking efforts, but at least I made a few friends on the ski trip!

  71. J14*

    I was a recent college grad doing an internship in my chosen field and then working part time at my alma mater to make ends meet. I had applied for my “dream job,” 3000 miles away, planning events at an athletics conference six months prior. I had done all the research on the company, personnel etc, and sent a rockin cover letter. I didn’t even get a phone interview.

    So one day I was working a basketball tournament at my alma mater. The games were over, and the trophy presentation was about to begin. Lo and behold, the person presenting the trophy was a top dog at my dream job! As soon as he finished his presentation, I literally ran across the basketball court with tons of fans still in the stands and introduced myself. I told him who I was, gave him a run down of my experiences and told him about the job I had applied for. Of course, he told me, the job had been filled, but we exchanged information and said he’d keep me in mind about future opportunities. Naturally, I followed up with him that Monday morning thanking him for speaking to me.

    Wouldn’t you know it, less than a month later, the job came open again! The girl who had it had gotten engaged and was moving out of state to be with her fiance. He asked me to send him my resume and cover letter, he’d forward it on to the hiring managers before the job was posted. Once it did get posted, hundreds of resumes flowed in. Not only did I get an interview this time, but I beat everyone out and got the job!

  72. JSKF*

    My husband and I ran into the president of the company I work for at the grocery store. My husband and the president had met the Christmas before at my company’s holiday party and had a conversation regarding my husbands line of work. At the grocery store I walked up to the president, said hello and motioned to my husband and said, “You remember my husband, Jeff”. The president looked at Jeff, looked at me, and then said “No, I don’t remember.” Needless to say, that became a very awkward moment and I mumbled something about needing to get home to make dinner.

  73. CK*

    When I was in between jobs, I got placed at a company on a temp assignment as an administrative assistant, which was an ongoing assignment until they found someone permanent for the role. I was trying to make my move into an HR role at the time, so when they asked if I’d be interested in staying in the role more permanently, I was honest with them and said that my career interest is in the HR field (I’m also studying towards my HR degree), but that I was more than willing to stay on until they found someone.

    A couple of weeks later, the Director of the group I was supporting took me aside and told me that he’d been speaking to his wife about how great my work is and my interest in HR. His wife is the Director of Talent Management at a large public school board and her department was always looking for people. He asked if I’d be interested in having coffee with her sometime to discuss possible opportunities. I’m an introvert and it’s hard for me to meet new people (and I shudder every time I hear the word “networking”), but I thought that I’d be crazy to turn down the opportunity.

    Another couple of weeks later, the Director’s wife emailed me and we scheduled a time to meet at a coffee shop near her office. I’d never gone for this type of “meeting” before, so naturally I was nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect. To err on the side of caution, I treated it like a job interview – I got my resume ready, dressed appropriately, and arrived at least 10 minutes before our scheduled time.

    The meeting itself went very well and I got to discuss my interest in HR and where the Director saw me fit in. I was really nervous at first, but the Director was very good at putting me at ease. She mentioned that they’d be going through a big re-organization soon and that it would open up a few positions. She would send me some job descriptions in a week’s time and have me schedule a time to have a more formal interview with one of her managers.

    To make a long story short, I got an email a couple of weeks after the initial coffee meeting and it wasn’t the best of news – they were still firming up some details, but there was nothing concrete just yet. There were some attempts to schedule an interview, but the timing was never right. I was starting to lose confidence in this opportunity by mid-January (I’d had the coffee meeting with the Director in October). While I’d been waiting, I was also applying to other positions, but this was not yielding anything promising either.

    Then in early February, I got an email from the Director out of the blue – she was ready to make me an offer. It took me by complete surprise, as we hadn’t discussed any specific roles. We chatted and she was interested in bringing me on a temporary basis for now and see where that would take me. At this point, normally I would think, RED FLAG! But to me it was a two-way street – they were willing to offer me a position based on that one coffee meeting I’d had with the Director, so why not take a chance?

    It’s been three months since I accepted that offer and I’m incredibly happy where I am. I would’ve never thought that temp assignment would lead to this one coffee meeting and end up in a job offer 4 months later!

  74. BJ*

    I live in San Francisco, and work for a non-profit. At an industry event last week i zoned out during some speeches. Later I bumped into a guy at the bar, and his face seemed familiar. So I casually said “hey, what’s up? How do I know you?”

    He said “I’m the mayor of San Francisco”. He was the featured speaker. I had been sitting in the 2nd row. FML.

  75. Sil*

    Last September, I had just moved to a new city and was starting to look for work. Fresh out of college, and with little prior conception of the excruciatingly painful nature of networking events, I signed up for a professionals night that a friend had recommended. I had never attended a formal networking event before – and it didn’t take long for me to realize that my first event would be my last.

    I was in the process of writing my name down on a tag when a man approached me to talk. He introduced himself and we started making conversation. When I told him that I was interested in finding work in the non-profit field, he smirked and explained to me how he had made the mistake of hiring an employee with non-profit experience once. “This worker didn’t realize that she wasn’t in a non-profit anymore!” he laughed. “I had to tell her, ‘Honey, we’re a for profit, not a no profit!’” An awkward start to our conversation, indeed, but I gave a weak smile and tried my hardest to continue making small talk. After all, it was my first networking event, and I had no notion of proper networking etiquette.

    Needless to say, the awkwardness only escalated. Our conversation soon turned to the most uncomfortable topic to discuss with strangers: sex. Apparently, his recent divorce had left him rather bitter about the subject, and he exclaimed, “When my wife accused me of cheating on her with one of her friends, I grabbed my son’s Playboy, flipped to the centerfold, and told her, ‘If I were cheating on you, this is who I’d be having sex with!’” Unable to accurately read my horrified and disgusted face, he continued. “Don’t ever get married. Unless it’s for the money. Or the sex.”

    At that point, I casually slipped my feminist and Women’s Studies background into the conversation and decided that my departure was long overdue. Before I managed to get away, however, he flashed his eyes at me and reminded me that he had a vacant position in his office. I not so politely excused myself and realized that I desperately needed to take advantage of the free drinks.

    As I wandered over to the bar, I bumped into another man. Within thirty seconds of introducing himself, he asked me for my business card. “Oh, sorry, I seem to have run out of them,” I responded (side note: I never had any to begin with. At the time, I hadn’t even considered getting business cards printed). The man scoffed and said, “I wouldn’t even bother coming to these events without any business cards. I mean, what’s the point?” Painfully aware that I had just committed a cardinal sin of networking, I turned red, graciously took his card, and made a beeline for the exit.

    Needless to say, my first and only networking event ended shortly thereafter. Well, not entirely. Soon after this scarring experience, I joined a temp agency and started working random temporary assignments. Guess what one of my assignments was? Working as a greeter for the same networking company.

    Life has a cruel way of laughing.

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