This is why you network

As you may know, I spent the last 2.5 years as an account manager at an advertising and marketing agency in St. Cloud, MN. Flint Group was my home, and I loved nearly every moment there. But unfortunately, as life in the agency world so often goes, my position was recently eliminated in some agency restructuring, and  I found myself thrust into the world of job hunting.

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From hourly refreshes of Indeed.com to numerous LinkedIn messages and dozens of resume and cover letter tweaks, I felt like a college senior again. After scheduling many interviews, I started to notice a common theme. Each interviewer I met with told me that they really want me to be interviewing them and their company as well… and I knew my pause was palpable. I tried to swallow this pit as I smiled and nodded, praising the companies and expressing my extreme interest with as much enthusiasm as I could, but my lack of excitement lingered.

Then one night, my phone beeped with a Facebook message, and when I opened it up and saw a name I recognized only professionally, I froze. It was the Executive Director of the St. Cloud Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She had an opening for a marketing position, and had gotten my name through a mutual contact who knew I was facing the end of my time at Flint Group. Would I be interested in learning more?

I almost fainted with excitement.

Later that week, I scheduled an afternoon meeting with her, Julie, from the CVB, and it took me approximately 2.38 seconds to realize that my dreams were about to come true. 2 weeks later, I received a phone call. The job – Social Media & Marketing Specialist position at the St. Cloud Area Convention and Visitors Bureau – was mine if I wanted it. And I never even had to apply for it.

Horiz Logo Clipped

Needless to say, I accepted the position immediately, and I’m currently in my fifth week of employment. The job is more than I could have ever hoped for, and while I’m qualified because of my skills, I really got the position because of who I know. So now, time for a shout-out to…

NET-FREAKIN’-WORKING

Through my time at Flint Group, I was fortunate to have the flexibility to go to numerous networking groups, stay very actively involved in the community, and meet a number of influential people in the St. Cloud business community. I built relationships with business owners, young professionals and everyone in between.

In my 2 weeks of “unemployment,” I received at least 4 other calls from people who I knew through networking groups who wanted to see if they could help. I was offered short-term positions, side jobs, references and more. And in the end, I technically didn’t even have to apply for my new position at the CVB – my name was referred by a mutual contact through a networking group. I would never have gotten this job without her referral.

The point I’m really trying to make here, is to never give up on your networking, because you never know how it will help you. Sure, I was always representing Flint Group at my networking events, hoping to drive sales, awareness, etc. But really, I was representing myself even more than I knew. Was I attending meetings to find a new job? No, not even a little. But because I’ve taken the time & effort to build relationships with other business professionals, I now have a network that I can rely on for more than just sales calls. And honestly, that feels pretty good.

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To sum it up, I’d like to thank all those in the St. Cloud Area who put their names on the line for me in the name of helping me find my next (absolutely amazing, dream) opportunity. You know who you are, and I cannot thank you enough for believing in me, supporting me, and proving to me that networking really does work.

And to the new group of amazing ladies I now get to call my coworkers, thank you for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel like one of the gang from day one. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for me at the St. Cloud Area CVB!

#EmilyFayeSays

 

 

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Women of Influence Summit: A can’t-miss event

next monday blog 3

When was the last time you spent an entire day focusing on the most important thing in your life: YOURSELF? … Stumped? Probably. Luckily, Next Monday seeks to fix that. Enter, the:

2016 Women of Influence Summit

As women, we have a lot of influence. Women hold over 80% of the buying power in the U.S. and own over 40% of the private businesses in the U.S. To quote one of my favorite movies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding:

“The man may be the head of the household. But the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she pleases.”

So when Next Monday, a personal and professional leadership coaching group, set out to reach women, they knew there was no better topic than that of our influence. Our influence on other people, on the economy, on our surroundings, and most importantly, ourselves.

So if you’re not already convinced that you should attend the 2016 Woment of Influence Summit, let me give you some more temptation…

SUMMIT

  1. Prizes!Okay so let’s be honest with ourselves for a second ladies: it feels good to win stuff. Admit it! You love the potential to get prizes. And let me tell you, the giveaways at the Women of Influence Summit will be WELL worth your time. Remember, they have ladies in mind. So be prepared to be wow’d and you just might win!
  2. Learn about your own influence. Like I said before, you as a woman have a whole lot of influence on your surroundings and on yourself. Attend the summit to learn more about how to harness that influence, whether through learning to handle stress, how to connect with others in a meaningful way, or by learning when (and how) to say no.
  3. Rub elbows with other amazing women. If you’re lucky, you might already have some great connections with remarkable, influential women in your life. I know for me, I have a few family members and friends who I am honored to say that i know, and who have taught me so much about my own influence already. If you attend the summit, you will have the chance to grow your own network of amazing women and make lifelong connections. That alone is priceless!
  4. Socialize with like-minded people! As I was chatting with Kelly from Next Monday, she said “Women don’t have a golf.” At first confused, she explained how many connections she sees (and that I now see) that men are able to form on the golf course. Friendships, business deals, and fun all blossom from the game that unfortunately women are not often a part of. So think of this summit as the women’s equivalent to golf. Get social, connect professionally, and have some dang fun while doing it!
  5. Treat yo’self. As I asked you in the beginning, when was the last time you really did something for yourself? The Women of Influence Summit gives you the chance to not only have a fun day with other ladies, but to really learn how to treat yourself more in the future as well. You deserve a break sometimes. Everyone gets stressed out sometimes. We all have trouble connecting with others sometimes. The summit is here to tell you that it’s okay, and to give you tip to help you in the future. We, as women, deserve to take a break here and there, and sometimes we need to be reminded how special we really are.

At the end of the day, you should choose to attend the summit based on your own intentions. There are going to be so many amazing speakers and topics that are relevant, relatable, and really interesting, and I hope you don’t miss this opportunity! Really, this is not an event, it’s a movement. As Next Monday so eloquently puts it:

“WE WANT TO CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE THE DAY’S MOTIVATION, INSPIRATION, AND INFLUENCE WITH YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE. FORTIFY YOUR LIFE. MAKE AN IMPACT ON OTHERS. LIVE YOUR OWN INFLUENCE.”

Are you up to the challenge?

The 2016 Women of Influence Summit is taking place at the Gorecki Center at the College of St. Benedict’s in St. Joseph, MN Thursday, September 22, 2016. General admission tickets and VIP tickets are available for purchase.  For more information about the schedule, speakers, topics, and sponsors or to purchase ticketsclick here. 

Networking vs. Connecting (there’s a difference)

Those who know me in a professional sense know that I love to network. I love going to happy hours, morning get-togethers, lunch and learns, socials – pretty much any opportunity to meet new people. But recently, I attended three events with a week of each other that really started to change the way I think about networking.

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Event #1: NEXT MONDAY LADIES LUNCH, LEARN & NETWORK

This event is put on by a company called Next Monday that specializes in “supporting women with leadership training and executive coaching to hone in on their why – which is their passion and intent and what drives the majority of their decisions.” And they act as a catalyst for bringing smart, talented, driven women together. A friend of mine (who I met through a networking group, go figure) Kelly, has recently started working at Next Monday. She introduced me to their quarterly LLN events. The most recent one was called Connecting with Intention. Tara, the speaker, talked to a group of about 100 women about going beyond the basics in networking. Like how to really connect with others, placing more value on relationship building than network-growing. It was a really inspirational speech (aided by Tara’s sense of humor) that got me thinking about how I can be better at connecting with intention. How can I take it to the next level with my connections? How can I really start to form relationships? One exercise that Tara had us do was to write down 5 people we’d like to have lunch/coffee/drinks with in the next month. So I wrote down my (ambitious) 5, left the meeting feeling inspired, but didn’t actually take any action.

Event #2: NEXT MONDAY HAPPY HOUR

Hosted by the same great company, Kelly invited me to a ladies happy hour at a nice bar in town on the following Monday. For women only, this was just a low-key opportunity to get out of the house one night of the week, meet other women in a relaxed, comfortable setting, and not have to commit to anything (other than a glass of wine, probably). Upon arriving, I saw two women who I knew from other networking groups, so I began to chat with them. One of them, Sarah, introduced me to two of her coworkers. After chatting for a while, I realized that one of them had graduated from the same college, the same year, with the same degree as me. And, we now live within 5 minutes of each other in a small suburb of St. Cloud. We exchanged numbers and promises to meet up at the local watering hole sometime, and I left feeling wholly fulfilled. Not because I had exchanged business cards with every woman in attendance, but because I had made one, real, genuine connection. It felt amazing.

Event #3: WOMEN IN BUSINESS MENTOR MORNING

The following morning, I woke up early to get ready to attend another event I had registered for the previous week. Mentor Morning was another women’s networking-ish event put on by a local media company. I had discovered it the previous Friday, and signed up immediately. Essentially, it was speed-dating for mentors. The event brought around 20 local woman who have excelled in their professional lives, from COO’s to college presidents, to CFO’s to business owners. Mentees could choose 5 women to spend 10 minutes with each to learn a little more about what they do, how they got there, how they overcome professional struggles, etc. As it turns out, two of the women I had on my list from Tara’s event the previous week were mentors – lucky me! I was able to spend time with each of these woman and three others, and it was inspirational, educational, and an absolute blast. Taking notes from Tara’s session again, I followed up afterwards with thank-you’s and we-should-meet-up-sometime requests, and now I am having coffee with one of the women in two days.

Whew 🙂

Let me first say that  I don’t usually attend quite that many events in that time span, but it just worked out that way this time. I will also say that there is something so… satisfying about attending women-only events. We all have something in common. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily take advice from or do business with successful gentlemen, but the ability to be real with other women is what makes it so much fun.

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My top pieces of advice that I gathered from all three events?

  • Listen, listen, listen. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and if you listen well enough to be able to follow-up on certain things – personal or professional – the next time you meet, that’s how relationships grow.
  • Ask questions. Go deeper. Someone mentions they have a son? Don’t just say “that’s great” and move on. Ask his name. Ask how old he is. Ask what he likes to do. Show genuine interest. And remember the answers.
  • Follow up. Send a text, make a phone call, write a note, or even deliver a small, relevant gift – do something after the fact to say “Thank you for meeting with me, I enjoyed it, good luck with XYZ life-event, keep in touch” – simple as that.
  • Don’t blow a connection. At the LLN event, I sat next to a woman I’d never met before, and we had great conversations throughout – laughing, sharing advice, etc. However, when the event was over, I stupidly didn’t ask for her card. I may never talk to her again. I can’t remember her name. I blew that connection. Don’t do that.
  • Be helpful. Find out what that other person needs help with. Whether it’s a referral to a business you’re familiar with, some advice on a resume, or a recipe you talked about, be helpful with your knowledge and abilities – it will be reciprocated.
  • Enjoy yourself. This is probably number one. If I didn’t enjoy meeting people, getting to know their stories, taking the time to develop relationships etc., I wouldn’t be very good at it. Find out who you enjoy connecting with – it will be mutually beneficial.

So there you go. Next time you meet someone that you’d like to get to know better, think about how you can make a geniune connection. Don’t be afraid to take them to coffee. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If they’re not interested, you will know it, and then you can move on. Now go forth and let your relationships blossom 🙂

#EmilyFayeSays

The gift that keeps on giving

If you know me at all personally, you know that I’m the type of person who spends more time cuddling with the dogs and cats at a party than conversing with other humans. I’m an animal freak. I literally kiss my cat goodnight every night, and my family dog is my best friend.

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So when I was contacted by a sprouting animal rescue organization in St. Cloud, MN, I was immediately interested. The best part? They were looking for someone to volunteer their time to manage their social media spaces. Um, yes, hello, where do I sign?

Thus begins my adventures with Grey Face Rescue & Retirement.

The only senior dog rescue in the state of Minnesota, Grey Face specializes in finding homes for dogs who are 7 years old or better and who are often faced with last-resort situations. We’ve saved a number of dogs off of 24 hour euthenasia lists, and turned shy, agressive pooches with unfortunate pasts into loving family dogs. We find hospice homes for dogs to live out their final days in. And we do it all thanks to the love, passion & drive of an amazing group of volunteers and foster families.

grey faces

Donating my time to Grey Face has been immensely rewarding on a number of levels. It’s an opportunity to help a startup. A startup that supports deserving old dogs. An opportunity to grow my social media skills. To meet other people with similar passions who I might not have otherwise met. A chance for me to expand my network. To learn about how non-profits work. To experiment with fundraising and event planning. I’m so thankful that I got involved with Grey Face, and I am excited to see this organization continue to grow.

It is in that spirit that I encourage you to find some way to donate your time. If you’re in the finance realm, find a nonprofit in need of some help with their incoming donations. If you’re a web developer, donate your time in improving someone deserving’s website who otherwise can’t afford it. If you’re in construction, consider donating your time to build or fix things for needy families. Charitable giving is not always about money. It’s about giving your time and skills – and that’s mutually beneficial.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and that you consider giving the gift of your time if you can. I promise, it will be a gift that keeps on giving.

P.S. Want to know more about Grey Face Rescue? Check out our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for regular updates. Want to be a foster or volunteer? Ask me how to get started!

#EmilyFayeSays

Finding your why

I attend a lot of networking events. And by a lot, I mean a LOT. I enjoy relaxed atmospheres that bring together various people from a wide range of professions who wouldn’t normally meet.

That, and I’m also a big fan of free food (or coffee) (or SWAG).

So when I signed up for the Next Monday Ladies 2.0 Lunch, Learn and Network, I was expecting to attend just another luncheon with some professional-related speaker topic and a free lunch (see above). But what I received was a chance to better myself on a personal and professional level. Woah, right?

The speaker at this event was Dawn Zimmerman, owner of The Write Advantage,  and she started her talk with this question:

Do you love your current job SO MUCH that you would do it every day… for free?

If the answer is no – like 80% of Americans – then maybe you need to find your why. Which is why Dawn, after excelling quickly to the top of her field in journalism, quit her job to find her why. What does that even mean?

It all comes back to Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” theory, explained below. While most will lead with the what or even the how, successful people, companies and organizations lead with the why.

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When a company or an individual finds their why and starts with their why, they become truly authentic. Dawn talked to us about how she found her why, and how that lead her to start The Write Advantage. There are three components that she recommends using to get there…

Purpose: What are your unique gifts?

Passion: What really motivates you?

People: Who do you want to impact?

Where do these three components intersect? Figure that out, and you’ve found your why.Going below the surface here, let’s think about those three P’s in more depth.

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What is my unique gift? My ability to remember useless trivia? Nahh… My skills with a hot-glue gun? Probably not. We so often don’t think about what we’re uniquely good at, which is why Dawn shared that this often comes from others’. We might not know what our unique gifts are until someone else points them out.

LLNpassion

When it comes to passion, there’s a lot that I could say I’m passionate about. I love a good red wine. I’m a devoted Minnesota Vikings fan. But is that really my passion? Is that really what motivates me – what excites me? Not likely. Passion is about finding something that you love so much, you would do it for free.

LLNpeople

The last P – people – challenged me even more than the other two. I’m generally not a huge people-lover. I get along great with a variety of different personalities, and I can hold my own in pretty much any social situation – no matter how awkward, But in reality, I’m somewhat introverted. So when forced to think about who I want to impact, I drew a blank. Dawn reminded us the people we most likely want to impact are directly related to our other two P’s – our purpose and our passions. With that reminder, I discovered the first puzzle pieces to my why:

Purpose: I have a really strong ability to make others feel comfortable. I can diffuse awkward situations, and I am very understanding.

Passion: I love to help others succeed, to help them be happy, to help them feel good, or at least just to make others smile.

People: Who do I want to impact? Those who deserve it. Simple as that.

So where does that lead me? What is my why? What should I do with it? I have a little more soul-searching to do before that can be official, but I think this has started me on the right track to figure it all out.

Have you found your why? Are you living your purpose? Please share your adventures in finding your why, or reach out with any questions you might have! I’d love to hear from you.

#EmilyFayeSays

Staying productive during downtime

We all have it every once in a while (that includes you, busy-braggers) (you know who  you are): downtime. And while we may not admit it, we’ve all passed that time with mindless activities, be it chatting with coworkers about nonsense, perusing Facebook until our eyes burn, or scoring some sweet (unnecessary) deals from our favorite online retailer.

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But as a young professional – especially one looking to stand out in their career field – how can we better-fill that downtime? How can you see it less as a detriment and more as a chance to grow? Here are some ideas that have worked for me.

Read industry news/blogs. 

Pretty obvious, but sometimes it’s hard to find that good content. Often times, your employer will already have online subscriptions to industry-related news sources that you didn’t even know about. Or, if you’re familiar with influential individuals in your industry, see if they have a blog or something like it that you can check out regularly. Being in the marketing industry with a passion for social media, here are a few sites/blogs that I frequent:

Convince & Convert

Adweek

TechCrunch

Social Media Examiner

Pro Tip: Subscribe to your favorite new sites’ email newsletters! Then you don’t have to hunt.

Jack up your LinkedIn. 

Notice I didn’t just say “LinkedIn Profile.” While I’ll never bash perfecting your profile, LinkedIn has even more than that to offer. Check out Pulse (under Interests) for articles related to your interests and industry. Follow companies you care about to stay up to date on their posts. Engage with clients, colleagues, and others in your network to grow your presence. Follow industry influencers to stay knowledgeable.

Pro Tip: Make sure you’re not viewing profiles anonymously, and then view with purpose. LinkedIn notifies users when someone views their profile, so if you’re looking to show up in someone influential’s notifications, it’s a good, non-invasive way.

Grow as a social media professional. 

When I first started in the world of marketing, all of my social media accounts were for personal use only. And that’s not to say I was posting inappropriate pictures or vulgar statuses all over, but I simply wasn’t using social for a professional purpose.

my twitter

Fast-forward 2 months, and I really started to gain an understanding for how I could use social media, specifically Twitter, in a professional sense. So, I decided to create a “professional-only” Twitter account, and I also took the privacy settings off of my Instagram account. Not only do I now use them for connecting with colleagues & clients, but they are now my “window to the world” in the marketing industry. I use them to connect with industry professionals to gain knowledge on industry trends. I use them to connect with others at industry-related events I attend. Plus, I love using my Twitter account for industry “chats” (specifically #AdweekChat). While I don’t devote every waking second to them, I do take advantage of downtime to update my profiles, find interesting things to share, discover new people to follow – you get the picture.

Pro Tip: While you should always keep a professional tone on your professional social media accounts, it’s okay to be silly/fun. Don’t sound like a robot – make jokes, comment genuinely, and, well, be a human!

Go above and beyond for your client/company. 

This might already be expected, but often times we’re too busy to devote time to it and then forget when we actually have time. Think about it: how can you go above and beyond to either wow the client or improve things within your company (or department)? Devote 20 minutes or so during downtime to thinking up “free ideas” for clients. Or spend 10 minutes chatting with coworkers about a certain work process to see how others feel it could be improved. Who knows, you might just come up with a big solution!

Pro Tip: Regularly block out time on your calendar for brainstorming. Good ideas often come from a flowing thought process, so avoiding interruptions can make for the best results.

& when all else fails… take a break.

I used to work for a company that allowed 15 minute breaks ever morning and afternoon to go for a group walk around the development. It might seem like a waste of time, but so often I came back more awake and energized and ready to start pumping out some great work. Removing your brain from the task at hand can recharge your system and get you re-inspired. Just make sure to check with your employer first 🙂

Pro Tip: If a walk isn’t your thing, offer to make a coffee run to a local Caribou or Starbucks. Ask your coworkers if they want anything. Not only will it get you out of the office for 15 minutes or so, but you’ll be delivering smiles (& caffeine) to your coworkers – win/win!

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What do you do with your downtime? How do you stay busy? Share your tips in the comments! & as always, thanks for checking out what #EmilyFayeSays!

Networking. AKA: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

My first “big girl” job was in the technology industry, and my clients were located anywhere from Minneapolis to Spain to Israel to Germany. Needless to say, my job did not really immerse me into the local business realm, and there wasn’t a strong need for me to get out and network with other local businesses.

However, when I found myself looking for a job in the fall of 2013, I realized that I should have spent more time developing my local connections.

When I was hired at HatlingFlint in January, 2014, I asked my boss if I could attend an event called Chamber Connection. This weekly meeting of 120+ local business professionals is a chance to get together to network & learn about each other’s companies  for two hours every Friday morning.

My first meeting was… terrifying. Admittedly shy, I found myself secluded in a corner on my phone, unsure of how to start conversations or even who to start one with.

A year later, I can walk into these meetings and know about 85% of the attendees names & companies.

How, you ask, did I overcome my fear and learn to network? Follow the simple rules below, and you too can Fake it ’til you make it *cheesy point-and-wink maneuver*

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Find somewhere to network! Kinda obvious. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce for events, or look into joining a local BNI or Biz to Biz chapter. Another great way to get out there: volunteer! Often done in groups, volunteering exposes you to many other professionals while you make a difference. Other ideas include local Rotary chapters, city committees (or some committee with a cause you care about), Community Ed. classes for professional development, local business conferences, or even joining sports teams. Take every group activity you do as a chance to network.

Leave your phone in your car. If that’s what it takes for you to not look at the thing, then do it. Not only will it prevent you from secluding yourself into a corner, staring at a screen, it will force you to find something else to do other than look like a weirdo standing alone talking to nobody. Don’t be that weirdo. I have. It’s not fun.

Start with what you know. Don’t doubt the power of small-talk. It gets a conversation going – even if it’s often meaningless. Is there free food at the event? Comment on its quality to someone! Is the weather unusually cold? Always a good conversation starter. Do you love someone’s cardigan? Tell them! Getting an easy back-and-forth going opens a door for more important questions, and starts to develop a relationship.

Don’t sell. People don’t come to networking events to be sold to. They come to develop relationships. Would YOU want someone trying to sell you their service at a networking event – especially if you have no particular interest in it at the time? It’s definitely okay to talk about where you work, what you do there, etc. but avoid putting people into awkward selling situations when they didn’t ask for it. If you do, chances are they’ll avoid talking to you in the future for fear of being reeled in again.

Listen & remember. When talking to people about their business, interests, family etc. do more listening than talking. Understandably, everyone wants to get their story out there. But the people you’re talking to will be even more impressed when you approach them next time you see them to ask how their daughter Molly did at her soccer game last Tuesday. People love to talk about themselves – and love people who listen. ALSO – Remember peoples’ names. Not only is it polite, but it just plain feels good to be remembered!

Exchange business cards. Always, ALWAYS have enough business cards on you. You never know when you’ll meet your next potential client, and nothing will progress if you don’t swap information first. Of course, don’t just go up to people handing them business cards – establish a bit of a relationship first. But don’t forget to ask them for a card at the end of your conversation. They’ll likely be happy you asked, as they might forget to themselves.

Get active. Volunteer for leadership positions, committee roles, or speaking opportunities. For example, in my Chamber Connection meeting, we have people who greet everyone on Friday mornings as they come in. Members can volunteer to be a greeter for a month. I did so, and that gave me a chance to say hello to every person who entered the meeting – and them to me. Do something to stand out & to get noticed. It might be scary at first, but remember that everyone had a “first time” at something, so you’re not alone.

Recognize others. Did you receive outstanding service at Kathy’s boutique? Or did you eat the BEST sandwich you’ve ever had at John’s deli? Talk about it! Spread the word! Something as simple as saying “Say, have you eaten at Subs R Us yet? I have, and it was fantastic!” during a conversation with someone else can go a long way. When you spread good word about others, others’ will likely spread good word about you.

me

And, with all of this combined, you can Fake it ’til you make it. Networking is not first-nature for 99% of us. It’s awkward. It’s scary. It forces us out of our comfort zones. You are not alone. Everyone started somewhere. But in the end, remember that networking is all about relationshipbuilding. Most “expert” network-ers I know are successful because they look at networking as a chance to make friends – and then possibly business connections. Keep it light, fun, and thoughtful, and you’ll do fine.

Please remember, these musings are from my own experience. They’ve worked for me – but do what is most comfortable for you! And as always, thanks for checking out what #EmilyFayeSays!