Never Eat Alone
“So are you an extrovert or an introvert?” This is easily the question of the year for me, every year. My family tells me that as a child, I was without a doubt an extrovert. Imagine a little chubby toddler in her mother’s five-sizes-too-big shoes, talking up a storm to anyone who would listen and you’ve got me. Something must have changed during the years that I transitioned from diapers and dolls to cars and credit cards; in high school, every Myers-Briggs and personality-related test pegged me as a full-blown introvert. The result of my psyche’s inability to settle on being an extrovert or an introvert is a young woman who can talk up quite a storm on occasion, but still feels as though she’s wearing her mother’s shoes, five sizes too big.
When Cynthia informed me about the kickoff reception for the interns of the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program, I didn’t necessarily hear my death bell toll, but I immediately began to miss my comfortable little cubby at the office. Now, the idea of socializing amongst 60 interns from non-profit agencies doesn’t sound very intimidating, but my job was to network with said interns and build connections that could help in the future. Having only 30 seconds to make a lasting impression on someone? The thought left me quaking in my flats, just a bit.
Of course, once I’d gotten there and the reception was well underway, I felt extremely comfortable chatting with the other interns, and listening to key speakers over sandwiches and salads. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon when Southern Methodist University professor, Dr. Carol Clyde, started her seminar that it hit me. Dr. Clyde talked about the importance of networking; it’s not about building the relationships, it’s also about maintaining them. She referenced Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone, on networking and reaching out to others over small activities like going out to coffee or lunch. And there it was; the answer to my personality crisis. Throughout high school, I ate dinner alone while my family members went to night class and church events. I got used to the idea of a meal being just a meal; no small talk, no insight, nothing but eating.
A few rounds of networking games later, I’d settled into the idea of bonding over food. The first impressions became easier and the conversations went faster. When I left, for the first time that day, I felt as if the shoes I was wearing were just the right size.