Monday, September 29, 2003

Barriers to networking or Why editing is a solitary profession

In the name of professional development, I checked out the year's first meeting of the Editors' Association of Canada tonight. As the crowd is mostly freelancers, networking is very important, and to that end, career consultant Colleen Clarke was brought in. Midway through her seminar, we were asked to break into groups of four and discuss our potential barriers to networking. "To make it easy," Clarke said. "The person with the birthday closest to now will be the scribe. The person with the birthday furthest away will be the debriefer."

"Well, I'm April 8th," I told my group.

"April 13th."

"February 10th."

"July 22nd."

"Well, he's the debriefer," said February 10th, pointing at July 22nd.

"Wait. Shouldn't he be the scribe?" I asked "His birthday was only two months ago. It's the closest."

"No, it's ten months away. It's the furthest."

"Well, are we only moving forward in the calendar, or is six months from now in either direction considered furthest away?" I asked.

Good question. The debate consumed my group, burning up vital minutes of discussion time with ridiculous arguing over whose birthday was closest and whose was furthest. Come on, I thought, not noticing that July 22nd's nametag read "Sheila" until later. We're all grown men here. Surely we can solve this.

"Colleen!" shouted April 13th. "Did you mean furthest away moving forward in time, or closest six months either way?"

"What are you, twelve?" Clarke responded incredulously. "I'm going to pretend you didn't even ask that," she said, shaking her head as she walked away.

Eventually, I somehow got named the debriefer. Seconds later, Clarke signaled for our attention, ending the exercise. The scribe in each group rose to present their results, obviating the need for a debriefer altogether.

Fortunately, our group was able to escape notice. A good thing too. If I'd had to present our results in my capacity as debriefer -- assuming the debriefers had any function whatsoever -- I'd probably have had to say, "To be honest, our main barrier to networking is that we bickered over whose birthday was when so much that we never even got around to telling each other our names."

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