ENTITY talks about the importance casual friendship in relation to networking.

I am a terrible acquaintance.

Throughout my life, I have always been much more of a best friend kind of girl. I have strutted through my existence with two to three close friends from every walk of life. And once I deem you a real and true best friend, you will never shake me. I grab onto true friendship and carry it with me everywhere I go, occasionally having weird and wonderful birthday parties where all best friends congregate and my worlds collide.

I love being a best friend. For one, I am a big superlative fan. To be the best at something is a feeling of perfectionistic pleasure I can’t quite explain. When you reach the point with someone where you sense that your souls are meant to be mates, where every insult is said with love, where you are both mothers to each other, where a stupid sound is enough to be a joke, this is the place I want to be. I love embarking on the sort of platonic romance that begins as a best friendship forms.

Throughout my life, this never seemed to be a problem. I had no desire to achieve popularity or school-ground fame. As long as I had my nearest and dearest by my side, I felt invincible.

When we leave childhood behind, we enter the dreaded ‘network.’

ENTITY discusses casual friendship.

As I grow older and enter the world of the workforce, I find an increasingly pressing need to partake in more casual friendships, to acquire enough acquaintances to make my LinkedIn network secure.

As we live in a “gig economy” dependent on “who you know,” it’s helpful to know a whole lot of folks. I’m supposed to build an army of job insurers, who know me just well enough to recommend me to their boss, or better yet, to hire me themselves.

I first discovered the issue with my way of forming friendships when I entered college. During my first year, my inability to maintain a plump “squad” was a fault, as those around me began to develop family-sized friend groups. There was never any down time for my peers. At least one member of their flock of friends was always around and ready for adventure. I didn’t mind having a little more time to myself. However, I did mind the FOMO feelings creeping up in my chest every time I saw one of these squads depicted on social media.

As I went into my second year having changed my major to drama, I had to step further out of my comfort zone and enter casual comrade land. Since I was pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, I was told, almost warned, that my peers would be the only ones who could help me obtain a job as I entered my field. Thus, part of my training was to teach me how to connect as deeply as possible with as many people as possible. I struggled. I still struggle with this in my program.

You can’t hold 15 hands at once, can you?

ENTITY discusses casual friendship in relation to networking.

Truthfully, I just don’t know how to efficiently befriend a large quantity of people. When I’m in a large group, I tend to freeze. The hilarious jokes at my disposal amongst close friends fade fast with more people to engage. I can’t ask personal questions, because I don’t know if others feel comfortable sharing their inner thoughts and their history with larger groups. I know I wouldn’t be. In addition, I don’t want to reveal my own anecdotes at the risk of boring the crowds. Without a one-on-one scenario, my only contributions to the conversation are nods and agreement giggles. And I can’t get to that precious one-on-one time without first making some sort of impression during group time.

Thus, I am a crappy networker and a lame acquaintance. And every day, I fear the impact this will have on my career. I want to improve–to learn the skills the popular girls of middle school seemed to develop early on. But at the same time, I question whether this attempt to grow is actually a diversion from who I am. How do I stay true to my nature without wrecking my chances at occupational success?

According to LinkedIn, “85 percent of all jobs are filled via networking.” If my network is comprised of 20 loyal members, is that enough?  I want to believe it is. I want to believe that popularity does not correlate directly to prosperity. We teach our kids that it’s okay to be unique. We promise that they don’t have to be friends with everyone in their class. But as I prepare for graduation, I’m unsure as to whether that’s really true. I hope it is. I hope I’ll find that size doesn’t matter when it comes to networks.

As I enter the workforce, I hope I’ll find a career that is accepting of all networks. As for today, I’ll keep smiling at strangers and laughing at classmates and connecting with colleagues, and I’ll cross my fingers that a few of them stick around.

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