We live, work and play in two worlds today – in person and online. They are equally important, inter-dependent and mutually beneficial.
I have built my current business and brand from ground zero engaged in these two worlds. The importance of consistent, qualified, dedicated networking can never be stressed enough as a requirement, not an option today.
In October 2006, I was sitting out on my lanai in SW Florida not working, after making a voluntary career and life change in August to leave a 20+ year career in Broadcast Radio sales and management. I took a job offer and moved to SW Florida, where I didn’t really know anyone. I was so excited, but it just didn’t work out the way I had envisioned it.
I was stunned and shocked. I never thought it wouldn’t work out and that I’d actually need a plan B. But thank goodness I had one. In February of 2007, I launched the first evolution of my current brand. A sales, marketing and social media training and consultancy company.
I hit very tough times (with a good idea and solution) in a small market that was ranked in the top 5 foreclosure markets in the country during those years. We were in the thick of the financial downturn. People needed a lot of help through those times and by helping them, it helped me.
I stayed in SW Florida and evolved my business for the next three years. I joined the chamber, a few local networking groups, got on committees, volunteered and started getting serious about social media, blogging and podcasting. I worked very hard to build the right connections and community.
It worked. I made friends, grew my business and became a part of the online and local community. Networking, especially during down times, is not only good for business, but good for friendship. There is a sense of belonging and comraderie that comes with networking.
I think about those early years and how essential networking was in building those friendships, a new career, business and social media presence.
My business model has evolved to more diverse ways to market, make money and expand my geographical reach and footprint as I continue to deliver career, professional branding and social media services with a focus on content marketing, blogging and podcasting. I am now a two time published career and small business author, national speaker, consultant, writer and media host.
This, by the way, has been a 7 year overnight journey where I have learned to be patient, consistent, flexible, nimble and persistent.
I am a huge fan of and proponent of networking. It’s probably the most important professional activity we do, to get to the connection or sale, which is very different today than it was, even 5 years ago. Technology and social media have changed this game dramatically.
Benefits of Networking
1) Industry and Local Brand Leadership
Not only did I get serious about my site and growing content, but I am now a regular contributor to several other national businesses and sites including Small Business Trends, Forbes, Entrepreneur, LinkedIn and Business Insider. And this is all because of networking.
2) Credibility and Following
I regularly engage with people opting in not only from all over the US, but Pakistan, Australia, England, India, Ireland, South America, Central America, France and Malaysia. Business and career issues and challenges are worldwide and the virtual world makes it possible for us to find each other no matter where we live. All because of networking.
3) Real Time Information Exchange
Anyone with a smartphone camera can now be a reporter and publisher, sharing content worldwide. Regular people are now street journalists, simply by sitting at a cafe in Paris witnessing something newsworthy. I find out about most major news events on Twitter and social media.
4) Strategic Partnerships and Collaboration
Social media makes it possible for all of us to engage with each other sharing trends, advice and business. I have met amazing people who bring value to my day, and those relationships have turned into tangible, valued business partnerships.
5) Referrals, Introductions and Connections
Supporting others work, accomplishments, life events and activities is a key part of networking and relationship building. Be kind, be a connector, be a giver and a catalyst when you network. Givers get more.
Some say that the virtual relationships we make online are not real relationships. I challenge that and say that social media platforms are the most natural way for human beings to fulfill their human need to connect. Virtual connections are the bridge to connecting in person, by phone, or Skype.
How glorious and wonderful it is to meet other professionals and business people who are like minded, spirited and goal oriented. When people finally meet in person after meeting online, many times they feel like they already know each other. Networking gives us all a place to meet up, greet up and grow up together.
So how do you benefit from networking?
Meet Up  Photo via Shutterstock