I’m not really qualified to do what I do. There aren’t qualifications to do it really. There will be… as things progress there will be more and more courses which prepare folks to be just like me… but my own education at present has only prepared me to be a badass at speaking French, a bit of an expert in language and communication and WAIT! That’s what I guess I do… sometimes maybe quite well, sometimes not so well… but still – trying to get a message across.
When I first graduated I taught EFL in London. I would make the effort to identify with, to empathise with students. Often sharing an anecdote like:
“you know when you’re standing outside a shop and working out what to say to the lady in the shop and working out what she is going to say back to you and then full of the courage you’ve mustered you walk in, ask for you packet of fags or whatever, and she comes out with some kind of savage stuff you hadn’t expected and you almost run off without your fags it is so stressful and embarrassing…”
That pretty much actually happened to me in Paris on a sixth form trip – I was buying cowboy boots (honest) and the shoe shop man, after we’d got as far as my telling him I was English he said “tu es anglais d’ou?” (where are you from). I had understood “tu es anglais doux” (you’re a softy) and I was quite scared he wanted to fight me and got out of there ASAP!That kind of anecdote gets a really good reception in a language class, as there are invariably a bunch of people just shitting their pants in there feeling like they are the only folks on earth with no confidence speaking in another language. It’s a relief to discover that they’re not alone.
And so I discover it’s useful to talk about feeling a drea of having to go out and talk to people in a networking kind of way.
Recently I find myself as a visiting lecturer and sometimes guest lecturer at a couple of universities. I teach at Foundation Degree level and have spoken at BA and MA levels. Sure, there are varying levels of competence (but not as marked as you might expect). And (as you may well expect) there are varying levels of confidence among the cohorts. Some synthetically cocky and others quietly brilliant, and everything in between.
Common across all the levels however, is a real need for a network. Almost all of those I have come into contact with want to be introduced to someone. Some don’t realise it. But not many. Some – feeling like they’ve been introduced – are confident to come and speak and to ask after I’ve done a talk. I get emails after these guest events asking for work. Sometimes they don’t think to send a CV. Sometimes they’re just chatting. It’s good to know someone who works in music. And sometimes maybe I can help a bit.
I hate saying some things can’t be learned but I think networking is close to that. That’s because you already know how to do it, and you can totally get better at it cos it’s actually fun. I think *everyone* has to take a deep breath sometimes and walk into a room, knowing that it’s a bit daunting, and just go ahead and talk to some folks. If you fuck it up that’s ok too. Just go home and go back the next time.
I found this blog here by Marsha Shandur who has had a pretty decent career in music (understatement!) and talks about networking in a very exciting, interesting and cool way. She reckons she was once a shy and shrinking violet. It’s hard to believe when you see her vids and talks. She offers TRAINING in this shit. But just reading her stuff is really useful anyhow.
It’s always nice to sit in and cocoon oneself away from everyone and everything (right now it’s brill cos the weather is terrible and I can hear the rain) but it can get a bit of an overprotection from stuff you needn’t have been afraid of in the first place. Get out and about and say hi to a few folks. (he said, almost as if to himself).