When I first got into sales I was incredibly awkward. In the morning, I’d hop off the elevator and rush to my desk to avoid office chitchat. At team happy hours I’d stand in the corner hovering over the appetizer table. I was an introvert thrust into a world of bubbly salespeople who I couldn’t understand.
For a while, I felt like I didn’t belong at all. The conversations didn’t interest me. The jokes weren’t my style. I started thinking there was something wrong with me. Because of this, I shut down and didn’t really speak to anyone beyond the obligatory office small talk.
But looking back, this was a big mistake. I had wrongly assumed I wouldn’t relate with anyone because on the surface they seemed so different. The truth was I didn’t give anyone a chance to go deeper. No one was able to show me their true colors because I didn’t show them mine.
It wasn’t until a team outing at Boston’s Whiskey Priest pub that something shifted for me.
The Whiskey Priest
I straightened my tie in the mirror and checked my Fossil watch for the time. It was 4:45 PM. I let out a deep sigh. In fifteen minutes we’d leave the office for a team happy hour. It was supposed to be a reward but I saw it only as another awkward networking event.
Upon getting to the bar I grabbed a beer and staked out a spot over near the cheese platter. The cheese was rubbery but I didn’t care. It made me look occupied.
The bar slowly filled with familiar work faces and as the drinks flowed conversation started to pick up. I stood in the corner and observed. I wondered how on earth people could do this so naturally.
Then, towards the end of my first beer, I heard someone say “excuse me” right over my left shoulder. I turned around and recognized Ashley, another member of the sales team. “Could I squeeze in to get some cheese?”
I moved aside and let her in. “It’s rubbery as hell!” I explained a bit too loudly. Apparently, the beer had given me some courage.
She smiled and popped a few cheese cubes onto her plate with some crackers. “The food here sucks!” she shouted back over the bar music.
I laughed. “Totally. I can’t believe our company pays for this stuff. We should’ve gone to Rowe 34.”
Her face lit up. “I love Rowe 34! Great lobster rolls.”
“And oysters!” I smiled back. “What other Boston spots do you like?”
For the next fifteen minutes, we compared our favorite restaurants from the South End to Cambridge. I had never met someone who was as obsessed with the Boston food scene as much me. We made a great connection that all started with some jokes over rubbery cheese.
After a bit, Ashley kindly excused herself but we could tell this was just the beginning of our office friendship. As she rejoined her other friends across the bar, I began to view the entire happy hour scene in a new light.
If I could make a genuine connection with Ashley then there had to be others. I needed to start searching. But how?
It was then that my mind shot back to a memory from that morning.
I had been running along Castle Island when I saw a guy on the beach using a metal detector.
As I ran towards him I could hear the beeping sounds of the metal detector in their slow, rhythmic pattern, “beep…..beep…..beep.”
But as I neared, I heard the beeping noise pick up speed and volume. “BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.” He dropped the metal detector and began digging. He had come across the treasure he was looking for.
As I stood in the corner of the bar with my newfound hope for making connections, I realized that I too could use a metal detector. Mine would just be a “mental metal detector.”
With every conversation, I could listen for an opportunity to make an authentic connection like the one I made with Ashley. Not everyone would be a great match with me, but there had to be others. There just had to be. And the search would be worth it.
With this thought, I finished my beer and left the appetizer table.
I joined a circle of people and began looking for treasure.
Beep…. Beep….. Beep…