That’s one impressive building, why didn’t I book my room here instead of getting a hotel all across town? Dang me and my “savings“.. as if the few pennies I pinch at the expense of my comfort would make a difference in the company’s balance sheet. Senior managers do not think twice about taking the most convenient hotel.
Note to self: never rule out a hotel because YOU think it is expensive. I thought I had mastered this whole work hard play hard and company needs to take care of its people as most valuable assets.. looks like I regress every now and then.
Ok, take a deep breath and let’s get to business. I hope I’m not under-dressed…
But I don’t feel safe walking in the streets looking sharp, I feel it attracts so much unwanted attention, I can’t be wearing heels, I need to be able to run if the need arises. But now that I am at my destination, I feel bad because I will look so frumpy among my peers.
Oh God, I don’t know anyone here! Interesting, so many fashion faux pas, I’m not that frumpy after all.
Everybody is in pairs or groups chatting. I’ve never been good at small talk. Kill me.
They say you have to “work” the room. I can’t just walk up to a stranger and introduce myself.. what if they think I’m hitting on them?
They say networking is like training a muscle, so I have to push through this. This is too awkward, I’ll just swerve by the buffet and get coffee. Oh No! just spilled some on the table, now everyone will remember me for being clumsy.
Why isn’t this thing starting already? I’m standing here by myself. Oh wait I’m the only woman with just coffee, no sugar, yay. Why is that even empowering me?
Oh here is Adam, I’m so glad I spotted him, now let’s stick to him and talk about work and my oh so important job. I don’t understand why everybody wants to have my favors. It’s not my call to hire their services… well technically it is because I’m the expert and I make the reco .. but I don’t want them to think that by sweet talking me they’d get a contract. I know all they want is to have my company’s name in their portfolio.. it opens so many doors they’d even do teh work for free. I’m sure so many people would have bartered contracts for commission.. is this why some purchasing managers are disproportionately richer than their job title entails? This is so mean! who am I to generalize? Anyway, I’m glad I’m not one of those.
We finally start the seminar. Same presentation from the same people. I’ve been going to such events for 5 years and the lady and her manager present the same thing over and over. For one, it means that they master the content and for anyone new, they look like experts… but for us, the poor “real” experts who have to endure this every time, it’s coma-inducing. I mean, I know the slides, I know the talk, heck, I know when the jokes are coming and when they are going to smirk. Keep your eyes open.
Oh, my turn to speak. They are all thinking isn’t she cute?
I deliver my amazing intervention, I don’t miss a beat, I feel the adrenaline, MAN I love doing this, I could do this all day.
The biggest satisfaction is watching their facial expressions change from: 1- isn’t she pretty (how patronizing) to 2- Oh that’s a big company, that’s a big responsibility, what did she start working at fifteen? to finally 3- Oh wow, she is good!
I can safely say that I endure 99% of boring, ungrateful, energy-sucking work just for the 1% gratification moments such as this one.
I’m done. The only presenter who stuck to allotted timing. I kept the info flowing so they don’t rest. I concluded strongly and smiled triumphantly.
The praise is pouring. The overly made up ladies are scanning me as I walk back to my seat. Yes, I was hired for my brains, and not to improve diversity stats. Few people shake my hand, some utter compliments, and a couple business cards are shoved to my face.
Many people are trying to see where I’ll sit at the buffet so they can be at the same table and start a conversation. I revel in the attention. I thrive.
Then back to reality: everyone goes out in their respective cars /drivers while I’m waiting outside the hotel for a taxi. I feel small again.
I go back to my hotel, take a bath and order room service to convince myself I’m having the good life, when I actually strongly resent the fact of not having the energy or the courage to go out by myself and sit at a restaurant alone to enjoy a great meal after exploring the city.
I write in my diary and update few more checklists and notes to self and the like. I promise myself that next time will be different. Next time, I’ll plan comfort, I’ll be dressed for business, I’ll explore the city, I’ll make friends with industry peers.
But there might be no next time until several months, with all these budget cuts. So that 99% of boring work might be my daily life for the next 6 months.
Go sleep. You have an early flight.