Every year at this time, I hear from people who, because of the holidays, feel the urge to connect with me and others in their lives. Sometimes we haven’t communicated in months; sometimes it’s been years.[Updated on 12/16/2010 after the networking event.] I hope that you felt that urge to connect with other communication professionals, and that you registered for the December 15 Holiday Networking Reception at Maggiano’s in Chicago. (For the sake of transparency, I have to admit that I had a conflict and wasn’t able to attend.)
Networking is one of the benefits of your IABC membership, and this session provided some practical advice from Matt West, Vice President, Insidedge, as well as the opportunity to dust off your networking skills. If you are a newer IABC member, or a more “seasoned” member who hasn’t been active in a while, this kind of event is great to attend.
Nearly a decade ago, I learned the importance of maintaining a professional network. I was downsized when the declining economy dried up revenue and forced employers to cut staff. Sound familiar? The same thing happened only a couple of years ago, and this nation still has a large unemployed pool of workers.
Back in 2001, I wasn’t active in IABC or any other professional organization. I figured that with my experience and skillset, I could find a good job fairly easily, all on my own. Sound familiar? I hope not!
I quickly formed a job search and support group with other unemployed members of my local church. Three weeks after being let go, I was talking with that group in a coffee shop when one of the other members interrupted me, exclaiming, “Someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Tower.” I remember my response, “That is sad, but we can’t do anything for that pilot now…we have to get jobs!”
It was Sept. 11, 2001.
The nation shut down in large part that day, and for the next several months was not in a hiring pattern. I went through the next 2 1/2 years either collecting unemployment or working temporary jobs for about $15 per hour. I tried to start a one-person communication company, but struggled mightily.
In 2004, a form of networking gave me some hope. My pastor asked me to speak during worship one Sunday about how congregation members had supported my family financially, emotionally and spiritually during our struggles. After one of the services, a man walked up to me, handed me his card, and said that he was looking for a communication professional. I got an interview, and eventually, the position.
One of the FIRST things I did with my first paycheck was to rejoin IABC. I later went through the IABC Accreditation program to become a certified Accredited Business Communicator (ABC). Since then, I’ve been strengthening my professional network at every available opportunity. I’ve spoken at communication conferences and meetings to build my professional resume and credibility.
I hope that you see the value of networking, and will take action today to strengthen your professional network.
(Cross-posted on my personal blog)