Terminator 1: Even if it's a virtual party, I'll be the one standing by the bar

I hate networking, but I'm not alone. Huddled in the darkest corner of 100 city centre bars, beer in hand, puffing through Marlboro Lights (well, only 10, for clean-living, networker-deterrent purposes, you understand), we're usually the ones cynically sneering at our less socially handicapped colleagues with all the glee of a bunch of teen Goths at a school disco.

Those lucky enough to have inherited the gene controlling one's ability to drink and make business small-talk at 10pm have the annoying habit of scooting up the corporate ladder, past us poor masses at an alarming rate. But, wait, I'm the target audience for online business networking solutions! No more smoky, drunken exits. No more slurred attempts to describe the pros and cons of user-centred design methodologies. Just sign up, drop in a few details and, bingo, rapid career progression.

In my enthusiasm to put right the years of sniggering, and kick a 10-a-day habit, I've signed up to several sites, like Linkedin.com and Open Business Club (www.openbc.com). Both operate on an 'I've got a friend you might like' model. Sign up and become a node in the network, connected to a million career opportunities.

Well, I don't know. I'm either singularly uninteresting or - as I'm seriously considering - have a crap bunch of friends who never invite anyone to their network. Once again, I find myself in a wasteland at the edge of a virtual sea of otherwise connected professionals. No invitations to chat, 'come join our gang' emails or, worst of all, 'please come and set up our new office in St Kitts' messages.

I've had the odd new contact. 'Fred invites you to join his network.' Hurrah, never before has an invite been accepted so fast. But, like a selection box on Boxing Day, the novelty soon wears thin. Back to opening my Weekly Activity Report from OpenBC to find that 1.1 people viewed my profile this week. Thing is, I know it was me sneaking a peek.

Don't tell me I should spend more time at it. Upload a photo. Expand my profile. I belong to so many professional networking communities that I have neither the time nor the inclination to update or chat to 100 new people a week. Give me a pack of fags and a beer instead, and I'll try stepping out of my dark corner and smiling at someone.

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