12/19/2014 12:29 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2015

Diary of a Young Professional: Dang It! I Have to Network

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Success is a tricky thing. As a 20-something young professional I like to believe my hard work, ambition and intelligence alone will get me to the top. But unless you're a beneficiary of nepotism, the second coming of Mark Zuckerberg, or are into working your way to the top on your back, somewhere along your journey to the C-suite you're going to have to get to know people, and doggonit make them like you.

I'm a Gemini, which means I'm one-half introvert by default. Making small talk and slanging business cards in 4-inch heels while munching on light hors d'oeuvres just isn't my thing. It's just not everyday I walk into a room and shout my resume to strangers or elbow folks to murmur pleasantries to the CEO. But it costs to be the boss and if a sweaty palm exchange is my currency, then I guess I'll pay.

Whether it's speed networking, happy hour or LinkedIn meet-ups, it's all equally annoying, particularly if no alcohol is involved. But like the savvy professionals we are, we must fake it until we make it, and leave our complaints at the check-in table... or if you're like me, right here.

1. The elevator pitch
From the first handshake to the business card exchange, you get one shot and 30 seconds to list your entire life's body of work to a half-listening stranger. This becomes increasingly challenging if you're prone to stammering or hell-bent on downing that glass of Ginger Ale.

2. Name badges
Hey, event planners! If possible I'd prefer not to be bent over, a** out as I sign my 15-letter name on a 1'' x 1'' piece of paper destined to live all but 15-minutes on my right boob before surrendering to the adhesive gods and RIPing on a Berber clad floor.

3. The nasty nancies
There are some things even Purell can't cure, and the lasting mental trauma of sweaty palm residue is one of them. If you're a germaphobe like myself, you secretly cringe with each handshake, one-armed hug and spewed food particle.

4. Freaking business cards
Like a pair of flip flops after a night of partying, they're never there when I need them. Ever tried entering your first/last name, office and direct phone number, and email on a stranger's phone in less than 20 seconds?

5. The awkward first move
It always begins the same way. You walk into the room and of course everyone is engaged in conversations with their new BFF except you. It's a soft blow to the night, but the not the end of the world. Luckily there are a few bits of bacon and shredded cheese left at the mashed potato bar so you make a modest, of-course-I'm-not-really-hungry-after-eight-hours-of-work, type of plate. You then scan the room to find the other pitiful soul that's balancing a drink, phone, purse and plate on their forearm while trying their best to look pre-occupied reading emails about the upcoming Macy's sale of the year. For a split second you both lock eyes and silently beg the other person to approach and make a somewhat funny comment so you too can appear to be purposefully networking.

You're feeling froggy today, so you make the first move. There's a slight but still pretty weird pause as you both struggle with what to set aside in order to shake hands -- the drink or the plate, as setting down either comes with its own pros and cons. Now it's time to converse. You pretend to be familiar with their place of employment, and proceed to list every contact in your phone until you find a mutual acquaintance.

I can't decide which is more awkward; accidentally sending a nude pic to a close relative, or this.

6. Too close for comfort
There's something about 150 people crammed into a room fit for 70 that makes me question the term "VIP Reception." Cheek to cheek with the lady doused in Sweet Pea body spray and the only brave soul daring enough to try the garlic-roasted potatoes, well you've clearly won. And if you're super lucky, the event planners decided to take advantage of living room-esque space by throwing a band into the mix.

7. Follow-up
So you've recited your resume and current job duties to nearly every person in the room, including the wait staff, and now it's time to make some moves. It's too early to admit you're a chronic workaholic, so instead of sending an 11:00 p.m., same day email, you make a mental note to take a pause from emails and "action requireds" to send a "Hey, remember me?" to the guy in the blue tie.

Writer's Note: In the event you're reading this and happen to rub elbows with me in an informal yet professional setting, out of respect to the this article, please greet me with a fist bump.

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