The Joys of Hostelling and Networking

Trying to find housing for a conference a week beforehand is not advisable; however, in my case, procrastination has yielded a great experience.  I’m staying at International Hostelling’s Downtown San Diego hostel because all of the other hotels were either booked, or cost over 200 dollars a night.  The accomodations are actually incredibly nice for a $50 a night private room: 15 foot vaulted ceilings, a large clean communal kitchen, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, and enough room to throw a small dance party (still on my agenda.)

At first, I figured that all of the foreign languages around me and foreign faces were indicative of the hostel atmosphere, but I soon found out that there was another common denominator between the cocktail of ethnicities in the hostel: the BPS meeting!  I think 80% of the people staying at this hostel are attending the BPS meeting, which was a big surprise to me.  This hostel is unique in that it allows people of all ages and all locations (except CA) to stay under the same roof.  In the morning, they have free breakfast which consists of cereal, bread, orange slices, coffee and milk, which has turned out to be one of the best networking opportunities thus far at the meeting.  I think that in this regard, a hostel is far superior to a hotel, because you’re forced to share bathrooms and a kitchen instead of just the hallway to your rooms.  Proximity often requires acknowledging other people to avoid the awkward silences, and in such moments of forced communication, meaningful connections often are born.

My plan is to use some new skills that I learned today at the “Networking for People Who Hate to Network” Career Center seminar over coffee and orange slices tomorrow morning.  I’m not exactly one who hates networking, but I figured that the seminar couldn’t hurt my skill set.  It mostly consisted of the speaker – who was very well-spoken and knowledgeable on a topic that you can’t study in a textbook – talking to us about the do’s and don’ts of networking.  What she didn’t provide was a step-by-step guide to networking, because the main takeaway of her presentation was that there is, in fact, no recipe to success when it comes to networking.  It all comes down to practice.

What is important seems to spring straight from a Sunday school lesson: give more than you receive, and give respect in order to receive it.  If you are genuine and show that you are willing to reciprocate to someone, then more often than not they will view you as a respectable person worth getting to know.  On the other hand, if you chronically utilize social interactions for your personal gain, then you will be viewed as a weasel with whom others will not want to be associated with, and much less, get to know.

The high point of the session was when it came time for us to practice networking with others in the room.  Probably 20 of the 120 original people left before the exercise, which seemed funny to me since those people were probably the ones in direst need of networking practice.  After two rounds of talking to people, the speaker could hardly get the room to quiet down again.  It was really incredible how much people learned from just forcing themselves to talk for 12 minutes.

So I challenge myself, and the few people who read this blog or made it this far in this post, to get out of your comfort bubble and talk to someone you don’t know tomorrow.  Introduce yourself and ENGAGE them in conversation, aiming to ask more questions than you answer.  Keep them talking for a couple of minutes, and if it’s not working, then just move on; it’s a meeting, people are busy and it won’t seem weird if you have to suddenly get to a “session”.  I also encourage you to go to the career center session tomorrow about cultural nuances and networking, which promises to be just as beneficial as today’s session.

On a final note, tonight is the start of Sunday drink specials, so if you haven’t been willing to get out and unwind, tonight is a thrifty night to begin!  Until tomorrow.

G

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