Who to Avoid at Networking Events


When you move to a new place and want to get the gist of how people tick, attending networking evenings is a great place to start. These evenings are centred around hobbies, business hacks, digital marketing trends, product launches or brainstorming activities for certain communities. I can personally vouch for the usefulness of such events, since I’ve had professional assignments come about as a result of networking. They can also help you build your own tribe, especially if you do your homework and pick a good field to graze on.

Networking events can revolve around insightful panel discussions or workshops. But on the flip side they could also be insidious sales pitches.

Regardless of what type of event it is, the meat to reckon with is the people who fill the room. The crowd determines whether the event was worth that $50 Uber ride which took you 2 hours swimming through thick traffic (in the worst case scenario). The key is finding the right strangers to spend your evening with. By avoiding those who fit the following profiles, you can pretty much guarantee a successful networking session:


Bull Dozers

We love confident people who are enthusiastic and upfront enough to introduce themselves to everyone who enters a room. It’s great to get a full account of what they do, their interests, beliefs, opportunities they’re after…but then when it veers off into how successful they have been at every juncture of their life, what they like to do on weekends, how they like their coffees, where they went on their last holiday, the massage they got while being on holiday, what they ate…. it means that you’re entering the danger zone.

People who only want to talk about themselves and don’t leave you any room to contribute can be real hazards, especially if you meet them at the start of an event. They could mean well and come across as fascinating, but they’re uninterested in forging good relationships. In order to know if a someone is valuable to you (emotionally or professionally) you must seek their input. This is nothing but common sense. So, if you meet a person who doesn’t posses this basic nugget – nod, smile and go get a drink. Run away.


Insecure Vultures

A sub category of the above, insecure vultures are those who seek out promising individuals and work tactically to crush their hopes and dreams. All it takes is for them to ask you what you wish to do in life – and this gives them enough fodder to begin their BS. They will tell you that the market is extremely competitive for people in your field, warn you about how difficult it is to even break through in the first place and then advise you to keep your expectations low. There is absolutely no truth in any of this. Sure, the world is a competitive place but there are always opportunities for skilled people. 


Mindless Freaks

In a new city? Same here. Attending a networking event to see what’s happening? Awesome, me too. Don’t know what the hell is going? Okay. Don’t really want to talk about anything? This is awkward. Just feel like smiling and staring at others? Even more awkward.

You may ask yourself why people sign up for events when they don’t really want to be a part of it. This is a great question. I have no idea what drives such people. Strangely enough, I have often spotted them at multiple events. They’re like serial attendees who don’t give a crap about anything! Being in a crowd of wishy-washy thinkers will not help you grow in anyway. Sometimes it’s easy to hang out with such folks; their relaxed vibes and non-demanding demeanour can take the edge off. But why settle into your comfort zone at the cost of making dull connections?


Sleaze Bags

Without sounding pompous, I must add this category of networkers simply because I’ve observed many and can easily sniff them out the moment I enter a room. They are women or men who are out to get their eye candy and do this in sneaky ways such as standing around well-presented people and picking out their ‘targets’.  When they secure their prey, they begin conversing with them while flooding them with ‘signals’. These usually include clinking of drink glasses (at this stage I get the game and walk away), winking, giving a playful pats on the arm while laughing and staring intensely at you without saying anything.

Even if you’re not the object of such people’s desires, you will recognise a Sleaze Bag by the way they pause during a conversation and scan someone from head to toe. Yes, these people exist. No, there isn’t any point in socialising with them. Nod, smile (actually don’t smile at all) and walk away.


Usually Sleaze Bags depend on alcohol to fuel their tenacity, but there are also others who need that extra boozy encouragement during a networking event. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. It just sucks when a person you actually want to talk to, is off their face. This may happen towards the end of an evening, after you’ve sussed out the crowd or even heard them on a panel discussion. If the person is a speaker, make sure to get their attention immediately after they get off stage. On the other hand, they could be someone you’ve been hearing about from others all evening and finally get the opportunity to have a one-on-one. If they are tipsy and you doubt their ability to remember you, making them your LinkedIn connection should be your #1 goal.

Now, if they’re someone who isn’t influential and hasn’t been stable enough to tell you about themselves in a coherent fashion, walk away. This is someone you could avoid till fate brings you together in a place where getting drunk isn’t an option.

Lastly, Connection Hoarders

Alternatively, you should also steer clear (or expect nothing) of people who just want to add you on LinkedIn without any real introduction or conversation. You should avoid being this person too. Value social networks by using them for what they were destined to be.

For The Journey Ahead

Reading through this list may leave you feeling a little shaky about your networking ventures. Rest assure that these examples are rare, and that the majority of attendees are looking to mingle for noble reasons. If you spot certain signs of negativity in someone, don’t hesitate to smile and turn around for a fresh start. The time you get at networking events is too short to bear the weight of those who don’t add any value. You should focus your attention on like minded folks who will keep you in good spirits and fill you with hopes of collaborating or socialising with them in the future. For a checklist on the traits to see in people you should network with, stay tuned for my next article…

Travelogue: Veterans Day in America


This was my first time being in America on Veterans Day and I felt like capturing something commemorative. I did not expect to actually spend time with veterans and photograph them.

Living in the Santa Monica area means that you’re pretty close to the expansive Veterans Park, which houses a few hospitals, postal offices and a whole lot of abandoned buildings. I’ve been wanting to do a photowalk in this area for a while, and thought that today was the right occasion to do so. The park spans over 400 acres and is known to be quite lonely, so it was helpful to know that there were going to be many people around on this day.

Although I wasn’t too excited about photographing buildings, I thought that was all I was going to get, so I tried to survey the area in the best way possible – until something caught my attention.


It was an old Barber’s Shop; the only colourful and happy looking thing in the entire vicinity. The longer I looked at it, the more multifaceted it became. It resembled a miniature farmhouse, a space that promised gaiety and a sense of community.


While I was gawking at it, the door suddenly popped open. There stood a welcoming figure who behaved as if we had an appointment. I entered the RV and was bedazzled by an overwhelming array of iconography. The shop was more like a time capsule, filled with knick knacks of 60’s pop culture, military artifacts, modern slogans about gay marriage – as well as a magazine cut out of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. Then, the welcoming man introduced himself.




‘Dreamer’ served in the US Army during the Vietnam War. He set up the Barber’s Shop around 50 years ago, when he felt that it was time to give his fellow veterans some positivity in life. Everyday he is visited by people who are sad and have hit rock bottom. As he grooms them, he heals them with his wisdom in spirituality – something that was passed down to him by his ancestors. Dreamer is a Native American of the Apache Tribe. He started cutting hair at the age of nine, when he was taken away from his family and sent to a boarding school.

He doesn’t subscribe to the idea of a ‘self’ and enjoys practicing the art of slipping into different realities, which he believes are all around us.

“We aren’t like animals. We’re more complex. We have the choice to be free, which means detaching ourselves from ideas, labels and a shared sense of ‘reality’. None of us know what reality really is. To be human is to have freedom.”

Upon noticing the pendant around my neck (which is shaped like the sun), he started telling me about ancient people who crossed many lands, following the movements of the sun and moon.



He explained the history in such a detailed and enchanting manner, that it had an overpowering effect on me. I felt unusual and faint and haphazardly stepped outside for some air, interrupting him in a jarring manner. Dreamer was astonished and asked if I was entering another reality right then. In my uneasy state I just blurted out that it was my time of the month, and fanned myself with one of his old books. Although I completely ruined the moment of mysticism, Dreamer was empathetic and gave me a bottle of ice cold Yerba Mate that his customer just paid him with.


According to Dreamer, women are incredibly powerful and are capable of superior magic, unlike men. He said that lesbian shamans are the most potent of all, and really respects them.

It was time for his next customer.

People who get their hair cut by Dreamer are never in any sort of hurry. They don’t mind if he stops mid-snip to explain some theory or other, and they often hang around till he finishes his stories. He has a talent for distracting one from life’s stresses. He speaks of unfamiliar things while boosting your spirit and giving advice about life. Although we didn’t talk about his family, it was evident that his heart had been broken very badly.



The Veterans’ Park is full of people with tragic stories. Most suffer from traumatic incidents that manifest in unsettling ways. I experienced this at one point when Dreamer was busy cutting hair and a man from Brooklyn, who was ‘just passing by LA’, popped his head in. As he inquired about the shop’s hours he got a gist of Dreamer’s spiritual beliefs and at once became disgruntled. He started barking about how he grew up with Christianity and knew that his God was better than anyone else’s. He wanted to know whether Dreamer would try to cast some sort of spell on him, if he got a haircut. The moment made me feel uncomfortable. I hoped that the man’s aggression contained itself to only verbal insults, while I saw flashes of possible news headlines. The man left after Dreamer diverted his attention to Doctor Strange and have gave him a flier about the Veterans Day barbecue. I took a sigh of relief before learning that the area we were in was specifically dedicated to psychiatric hospitals.


A calm customer who was getting the ‘flat top’ hairstyle was once a patient a the psychiatric hospital. He was a Korean and Gulf War veteran who met his wife during his first military service. He saw her at a local bar in Seoul, winning hand after hand in poker. It was love at first sight. They were married for 30 years until August this year, when he lost her to cancer. He recently enrolled himself in a technical trade school to study renewable energy, as a way of keeping his mind occupied.

As I left Dreamer’s shop, he gave me some tips on how to reverse my thinning hair, along with two parting requests; 1) that I should guard my soul at all times, and 2) that I should look at life as a linear, forward moving path rather than a cyclical progression.


While walking out of the park I was surrounded by people I had nothing in common with, yet deeply respected. I am not in favour of war and do not know what inspires people to become soldiers – but I think it’s fair to be supportive of them. Spending time with veterans on Remembrance or Veteran’s Day felt like the right way to commemorate people who’ve fought for their countries. Learning about Native American culture and getting to know Dreamer, was incredibly (if not more) important. It reminded me of the battles that native populations have had with outsiders, who forced their way into lands they suddenly decided to defend. Additionally, we also shouldn’t forget the men and women who have died for their countries; including those who weren’t soldiers of the American, Australian, New Zealand or British Armies.