Avoid Networking Spam (and a super embarrasing moment)

open mouth, insert footSpam … the word makes most of us cringe. We don’t want to receive it, we don’t want to be accused of sending it. We all know that spam is something like “unsolicited e-mail.” Here’s an embarrassing story about networking spam featuring yours truly 🙂

In 1998 I was going to leave the FBI (I was not an agent) and take an internship with Simplot. This was a huge change for me — the pay was lower, the hours were cut in half, there was no insurance, vacation or sick leave. I was just about to hit the time at the FBI when I got three weeks of vacation instead of two. But I was going nowhere and didn’t want to spend the rest of my career doing clerical stuff – there wasn’t a corner office for the clerks in the FBI back then!

So I went through the interview process at Simplot, things were going well and I felt like the job was probably mine. I was still doing what I could to sell myself though. This was way different than applying for the FBI, where it was so full of policy and procedure that it seemed humans weren’t allowed to make decisions (as long as I could type fast and pass the polygraph I had a shot). Simplot wanted me to impress them, and that’s what I tried to do.

I remember getting a tour from the boss of my future boss (she turned out to be pivotal in my career and I owe a lot to her). As we were walking down a hallway she said something about her 10 year old son and I said something like “I caught a snake this weekend.

You have to understand, I love catching snakes (and lizards, and frogs, and … well, pretty much anything I can). I thought I was being personable and sharing my interests with her.

It was so out of place, she looked at me funny and hesitated long enough for both of us to think “where in the world did that come from???” I don’t remember how we moved on, I think she just humored me and brought the discussion back from dorkiness.

I call this networking spam. Unsolicited, off-topic noise. It is a distraction. I was sure she wanted to know more about me, but this was so out-of-place that it didn’t make any sense.

(I got the job, it was awesome, and it accelerated my career in a big way.  I never mentioned snakes to her again.)

Are you a network spammer? Do you have any network spam stories? Come on, don’t make me feel by myself here – share your story!

5 thoughts on “Avoid Networking Spam (and a super embarrasing moment)”

  1. Best one I ever overheard:
    Guy at a wedding trying to impress the bridesmaid he is dancing with. Very traditional wedding where the main course (a humungous roast of beef) was led into the room by a man in a kilt playing the bagpipes.

    Our intrepid guy is obviously running out of things to say to the bridesmaid. Scanning about for something topical to say, he proceeds to tell her that you should never suck on the airpipe of a bagpipes because they are never cleaned and all manner of horrible beasties and spores live in there and you could die a horrible lingering death …

    If memory serves, he didn’t get a second dance.

  2. Everything that comes out of my mouth is unsolicited, off-topic noise. I’ve built my life around it.

    Probably explains why I can only work for myself…

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