I’m back to thinking about serendipity and networking, though both have featured in previous posts. In the context of interviews. And framing things.
Recently reestablished contact with an old school friend – nearly 40 years since I’d seen her. Came across her name a few years ago when – visiting an art exhibition for the FOURTH time (not something I normally do but I just couldn’t get enough) – I noticed she’d curated it. I’d not seen her since school and had no inkling what had become of her till I recognised her name in the gallery. I was tempted to contact her then, but I was too reticent. I asked now if she’d agree to an interview, after the Storytelling Mission threw up the fact that a lot of what I seemed to enjoy was a kind of curating. (Or what my children and I – after Uma as Ulla in The Producers – call ‘make look nice’.) I had not thought of it as curating, which I regard as a relatively elevated activity associated with places like the British Museum, not the low level domestic stuff I was talking about. But I struck while the iron was hot. She replied straight away – ‘Sure, only I’m very busy this week. Unless you don’t mind coming to the National Portrait Gallery, where I am filming on Wednesday’.
So this morning I had a lovely time. Met up with her, and it was easy: she is warm and helpful. One of the fellow presenters of the show being filmed is an artist I had met before: I like his paintings very much and had been considering buying one back then. Went to a couple of private views, thought him rude and arrogant and went off the idea (Shame: they’d’ve been a good investment.) Today he was utterly charming. People change. I daresay we all do. In fact one of the things he and I talked about was the extent to which one’s perception changes, according to a million things going on between one’s ears. He said he’d seen a painting of his once that had recently been bought, and thought it awful. Seen again a few years later, he thought it rather good. He asked if I was a collector. I said no. I said I had just bought a few paintings I liked, to hang on my walls. He looked at me slightly quizzically and said ‘isn’t that what collectors do?’ Framing.
When I was a young management consultant I was once astonished to overhear a colleague, who mostly farted around phoning friends instead of getting any work done, describe what she did as ‘a feasibility study for a company with a new food processing technology’ when I had just described the same activity, done by me, as ‘going round Europe sticking my head into freezer compartments in supermarkets and noting down facts and figures.’ Framing.
My school friend today made a suggestion to me that was so audacious I could hardly stop laughing. She said ‘why don’t you say you are working on a book?’ She, this woman who is at the top of her field, said that for a couple of years she told people that she was doing that. The book never came to anything, but she liked being able to answer the question ‘what are you working on?’ And then she went so far as to say: ‘You’re interviewing all these people: you could turn that into a book.’
In fact, I do have a couple of book ideas. But, in typical fashion, I do nothing with them, don’t know where to begin, who to ask, how to get published, and assume nothing will come of it because I am not good enough, thus neatly proving myself right.
I have a very good friend who has for the last few years paid me (a little) to help (a little) with social media for her design company. Not long ago, she introduced me to someone who has a business doing just that: social media. My friend was making the coffee and told me to go and tell this woman a little about myself. ‘For the last 20 years I’ve been a stay at home mum’ I began. A few more drivelly sentences and my friend emerged with barely disguised exasperation and said ‘She’s got an MBA!’ I hadn’t thought of that. Framing.
It’s shocking really, when you consider that I have in the past successfully made a good living by helping people to present themselves and their companies in a way that is clear and compelling. And yet I keep making these rookie errors where my own self is concerned.
Which is not helping me when I think of how I have to do something about my woeful LinkedIn profile. Feeling pretty thick right now.
Photo is part of a floor in the NPG.