So it is little wonder that people have started to go to extreme measures to stand out from the crowd like this guy who made a video to appeal to Google to give him a job:
Over the last two years, I haven’t resorted to such tactics. Perhaps I should have, but just adjusting to the concept of having to sell myself was enough.
In the beginning, Michael, my English friend became my unofficial ‘coach’ into the world of freelancing.
“You have got to get yourself out there and network your fanny off,” he said zealously as we travelled on the tube to my first networking event. “It is all about selling yourself. Say yes to everything, even if you don’t know how to do it — just blag it.”
This UK blagging concept worries me. To blag is to ‘act with clever talk or lie to get something.’ I have lived away from home for so long that I had to look up an Australian slang website to see if we had an equivalent. The only phrase I felt came close was ‘to tell a porkie.’ Well, you’ve got Buckley’s ( I am on a roll here) finding me doing it professionally thanks to my highly developed levels of guilt and anxiety. What happens when an employer finds out that you can’t do what you said you could do? How exactly would you ‘blag’ yourself out of it? It’s the stuff of nightmares.
I digress. My first introduction to networking was held at a swanky building in Bond Street. It was a one-off and free, but there are some networking organisations which charge up to £400 per year to join. A friend who belonged to a ‘chapter’ said that thanks to the fortnightly breakfast meetings, the 60 second speeches he had to do in front of everyone and the rule that you had to introduce more people into the fold, the whole experience was rather cult-like.
When Michael and I arrived, we had to write our names and occupations on a white label and stick it on our chests. I watched as Michael wrote an essay on his before he began flitting effortlessly amongst everyone. As for me, I seemed to have sculled a glass of sauv blanc without realising it. As a two pot screamer (okay, I will stop now), I decided that I had better snaffle as many canapes as I could.
Having lined the stomach, I took a deep breath and waded into the crowd. With poor eyesight, I practically had to head butt someone to read their name tags and by then I was too close to escape. The first man I spoke to was a private detective called Tony. He stared at my chest for a long time trying to read my scribbles. I suddenly felt like I was at a singles’ night.
“How’s the recession treating you?” I said feeling rather uncomfortable.
“Recession, what recession?” he said rather loudly so he could be heard over a strange electronic version of Vilvadi’s Four Seasons.
“My business is booming. Insurance claims have gone up and if people aren’t getting divorced, they’re not paying their bills,” he said a little too gleefully.
After 20 minutes of this guy telling me how great other people’s miseries were for business, I needed to escape, but had no idea what the rules of disengagement were.
“Oh, well done,” I said, not sure how to respond. “If you’d excuse me, I need to go to the toilet, I mean loo.” (I now find it impossible to feel happy using either of these words.)
That night I met Felicity, a cat homeopathist who decided that my childhood cat,Tinkerbell would have benefited from some Rescue Remedy and Dawn, a colour stylist who told me that I had only just got away with wearing olive green.
None of us could match Tony’s bravado. I might have imagined it, but we all seemed to share the same look: dark rings under our eyes that no amount of concealer could hide and a slightly haunted expression. I think if anyone had cracked and said how tough it was, we might have all quickly dropped the pretence and had a group hug, but hey, these are English people I am talking about.
By the end of the night, we were all a bit tipsy. My non-existent blagging skills weren’t required as everyone there was looking for employment, not looking to employ. Despite not making one useful contact, I ended up feeling better that I was not alone in these tricky times.