Saturday, February 05, 2005

Networking Delusions

My boss is crazy--everyone who works with him will agree. Somehow his craziness has convinced him that I am destined to be a mover and shaker in the Chicago legal world. Craziness confirmed!

He has an extremely favorable and completely unwarranted opinion of me. My recent slacking off at work doesn't appear to have been noticed and instead he still praises me for grinding out work. Several times when he has thanked me for staying late I flat-out told him that I deserved no thanks because I was just screwing around in my office--and instead of lowering his opinion of my work ethic he gives me credit for being honest. Somehow all of my faults and inadequacies get either overlooked or viewed positively. Crazy. This makes me feel sort of guilty and at the same time makes me push the boundaries even more. If I were one of the other young attorneys I would hate me for the shit I get away with.

On Thursday I mentioned to him that I was asked to moderate the "Truth about Liabilities Issues" at the Healthy Streets conference. He is very active in the community and is encouraging of my biking-related activities. He was really impressed that I am being given this opportunity considering how young and new I am. [OK, I intentially sucked-up and this was the response I was hoping for so I can count hours spent preparing for this session as pro-bono hours--hours I don't have to spend 'working' but still get credit for.] However his craziness took over and on Friday he spent about a half an hour braggin to the Chicago Bar Association president about me and my 'amazing leadership skills.' So together they are brainstorming ways to create partnerships between the CBA and CBF. Apparently the CBA president is sending me materials and I am supposed to meet with him soon and will be offered an opportunity as a leader in their 'young lawyers' program.

This actually makes me quite happy because I am perfectly willing to use the CBA to my and CBF's advantage. I am friends with the sponsor/marketing people at CBF and they are excited about the opportunity to tap into the CBA piggy bank. I will probably start bringing bikey clients into the firm in the next few months with the help of CBF's referral. More importantly, I certainly am willing to use the CBA to wiggle my way into a job that I really want. So everything seems rosy and happy on this front and my leadership abilities may become a self-fullfilling prophecy.

There is only one problem: This is CRAZY!!!!! I don't like the law, don't like networking and don't like most attorneys. The day my boss had this conversation with the CBA president was my FOUR MONTH anniversary working as an attorney. Before that I was unemployed for 1.5 years. WTF!?! None of this points to me being a leader, a great networker or an asset. I am lazy, unprofessional, suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome and am overall an oddball. However, now three organizations are somehow looking to me to do great things for them. I feel like either I am missing something or else there is contagious craziness swirling around me. I don't try to delude anyone about my motivations or abilities (this being a prime cause of my previous unemployment) but somehow have unwittingly acquired the aura of hot-shot, up-and-coming leader. Twilight-Zone caliber weird.

Even weirder is that it might just come true: I'll add the moderating thing to my resume, probably along with a committee position with the CBA. This will help me meet more people who will hopefully help me get the job I want later. CBF loves me and is very excited to be a pro-bono client of my firm and will easily be convinced to refer injured bicyclists to my firm out of gratitude. This will probably lead to me becoming a 'rain-maker' at the ripe old age of 27 years. The firm will love me more for it and at the same time I will have more pro-bono projects to do instead of actual work, which my boss/CBF/CBA will leverage for more publicity, and will make me happier. I have an agreement for Ethan to help on marketing for the restaurant I plan to purchase (which will also expose me to more potential clients and give me more business experience), and I bet I could get him some paid consulting work marketing my law firm generally, but any CBA/CBF partnership that I help orchestrate specifically. Back-scratching galore! Apparently the craziness is highly contagious, because as I write this, I can easily envision some great things happening.

It still doesn't make any sense. I hate traditional networking and can't schmooze if my life depends on it. I am blunt, crass, contrary, unprofessional, immature, irreverant and just plain odd. Instead of developing relationships with the influential, settled and powerful I made friends with marginalized (some unemployed) bikey people because they are more fun. Now a year later, these friendships are developing into business opportunities and quickly working to advance my legal career! These types of opportunities are what some of my smarmy, icky classmates have tried to sell their souls and integrities for--but instead come to me via the most unlikely route. I love upward spirals and unexpected turns of events.

As is apparent, I am becoming very excited and perplexed by what may come from these snow-balling opportunities. I find it all the more wonderous considering how much my life has changed in four short months. My non-student loan debt is gone; I will probably be a business owner in the next 45 days; I am beginning the process of organizing a group of progressive bikey friends to buy a building next May, and instead of being unemployed, my career seems positively glowing. It is weird and satisfying to know that I have made many seemingly unwise decisions that appeared to detour me away from my goals, but actually ended up being fun short-cuts.

Pinch me.

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