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.

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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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Using Twitter & LinkedIn for your Career

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As part of my never-ending quest to be a networking-maven, I joined a group called NEXT St. Cloud about 7 months ago. NEXT is a networking & professional development group meant just for young (under 40) professionals. We meet once monthly for an hour, and each meeting consists of lunch, group updates, and a presentation on some relevant topic. Topics range from leadership to career advice to city development and beyond.

This week, the topic was about how to use the social sites Twitter & LinkedIn in your professional career, prepared by the @FlintGroup team and myself, & taught by yours truly.

I’m extremely passionate about social media, and a strong believer in building your personal brand if you’re in the professional services realm at all. Twitter is my happy place (Lord help me) and LinkedIn is my water-cooler. So, naturally, when I was asked by leadership to give a talk about these two networks, I happily obliged.

Here is a link to the presentation if you’re interested in skimming all 32 slides: Using Twitter & LinkedIn for your Career. And I also want to give a MAJOR shout-out to my colleague & friend @britthanso who helped me prepare this presentation!

If you’re just looking for some highlights, here are (what I feel) the top 5 takeaways:

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  1. Be human. Don’t be a robot. Don’t automate your tweets or posts (especially if they have your name on them). Joke, wise-crack, be honest. Just do so wisely. (Yes, delete that keg stand picture…)
  2. While sharing others’ content is a great way to start and fill in gaps, it’s even more fun to share your own thoughts/feelings. Share what makes you happy. Live-tweet and industry event. Post a funny (appropriate) picture. People follow you for what you have to share – so share it!
  3. Be helpful. I’m going to quote the content marketing genius @JayBaer here: “If you sell something, you can make a customer today. If you help someone, you can create a customer for life.” Don’t always be thinking in terms of sales & dollars. Think in terms of relationships and connections. Your customers will remember you for it.
  4. When it comes to time spent on social, do what works best for you. Find a reasonable amount of time you can commit to social media, and stick to it. Realize, too, that social is so much more than something you do on the side. It’s a new business tool, a networking group and an enormous knowledge base. Take advantage of that.
  5. Social media opens doors to millions of individuals around the world. It gives you a chance to rub elbows with big brands, CEO’s, and even celebrities. It should no longer be treated as a “side project” for your career – it’s a must.

What works well for you in your industry? What do you think doesn’t perform so well? I would love to hear your experiences!

& as usual, thanks for checkin’ 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.

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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!