What’s the difference between socializing and networking? Let’s be honest: conferences are great for social gatherings, alumni parties, meeting new people, catching up with old friends/colleagues, and the drink specials. Where does the networking stop and socializing begin? I’m sure we all have our fair share of stories of Reps taking us out for drinks; which is all well and good and possibly very entertaining. I’m willing to safely bet that professionals in all walks of life do business over a few drinks at Happy Hours and conferences. Having a few drinks while still keeping it professional are essential.
Knowing the point at which it turns from professional to lacking professionalism is paramount. Some may come out of their shell easier with a few drinks but everyone has their tipping point (no pun intended). On the extreme end of the spectrum, professionalism runs out the door pulling an “Irish Exit” and drags your professional dignity with it. The peer pressure of friends at conferences can drag down a young professional who may not know boundary where networking/socializing turns into partying. Within the confines of the conference/meeting lines are clear cut on what is professional or acceptable and what is not. Outside of those walls, things change and going out with Reps can be great for our wallets but boundaries can easily be crossed.
ATs struggle to separate ourselves from other professionals and networking is one way in which we can educate those who may not know who we are and what we do. Additionally, we can meet people that may be able to help us professionally or learn from and vice versa. How do you network? What boundaries (written or unwritten) do you set for yourself or your coworkers that may tag along?