Guest post by Carla Swank, Communications Director @TenFastFeet.
“It wasn't the perfect catch. And neither was mine. But I survived because I have a good safety net.”
Fellow “Sex and the City” fans might recognize that line as the closing voiceover for the episode titled “The Catch.” It’s the one where Carrie tries her hand at the flying trapeze and Charlotte has a less-than-perfect wedding to Harry, including Miranda’s “flammable” toast at the reception. In my opinion, it was one of the better episodes of the series and remains my favorite to this day. But I digress.
That closing line has stuck with me over the years. A safety net. We all need one. We need good friends to catch us when we’re down personally and good connections to learn from professionally.
I think it’s far too appropriate that the word networking begins with the word net. Your professional network can help you gather information about your field or available opportunities or happenings in your community … or other things you never knew existed.
You never know when you’re going to need one.
That’s what happened to me earlier this year.
I spent more than 10 years living in Pittsburgh, where I had both a fantastic personal network of friends and professional network of colleagues. I was active in the social media community, on the planning team for PodCamp Pittsburgh. I served as a board member and committee chair for the young professional organization in town. I was active in my college alumni association.
It was fantastic. And it was exhausting.
You know how it goes. So many happy hours and dinner meetings and networking breakfasts and suddenly you realize that you’re not sure what’s happening in your own life because you’re learning so much about everyone else’s.
When I moved to Nashville in early 2010, I had a secure job. I was exhausted from the years of networking. So, I took a break. I enjoyed getting to know my new city on my own terms. I attended events, but stayed “at a distance,” so to speak. It wound up being a nearly two-year break.
And then, earlier this year, it became apparent that my job situation was going to change. I realized I didn’t have a professional network to lean on to help me learn about new opportunities. So I started fast-tracking building one.
In a matter of just a couple of months, I had made connections and friendships that would last
I got involved on the organizing committee for PodCamp Nashville. I resumed attending Nashcocktail on a regular basis. I scheduled coffee meetings with new connections I’d made at those events, freshened up my resume and revamped my LinkedIn profile.
I made connections, both online and in-person. In a matter of just a couple of months, I had made connections and friendships that would last. It was a new safety net, so to speak.
This put me in much better shape when I was laid off in April.
I carried my newly-designed business cards (which I created on my own) with me everywhere I went and landed a couple of freelance projects. Eventually, I built my own website to showcase some of my writing work and highlights of my resume to simplify the networking process.
I spent my summer sans employment attending Social Media Club events and continuing the networking process at other mixers and events (including Nashcocktail). I agreed to step-up my involvement with the “Camp” crew and volunteered to serve as marketing coordinator for BarCamp Nashville this past fall. That helped deepen my relationships with those connections and allowed me to stay sharp on my marketing and communications skills.
But I also took time for myself, traveling back to Pennsylvania three times to visit my family, and spent time figuring out exactly what I wanted the next move in my career path to be.
I was refreshed (albeit exhausted from all the driving to Pennsylvania) and ready to kick off a new phase of my life.
And after several months, all of it paid off.
During the September Nashcocktail event, I was chatting with a friend I had made through the PodCamp committee. He mentioned that his employer might be interested in hiring someone in communications. I gave him my card. He told me to email him the next day to remind him about our conversation.
A little less than two weeks later, I received an email from his boss, asking if I’d be interested in coming in for an interview – even before asking to see my resume. Obviously, I was … and I did.
And, long story short, about a month later, I had a new job … as Director of Communications at Ten Fast Feet, an interactive agency downtown.
I’ve just completed my first month there, and I have to say it’s the job I’ve been aiming for in my career, helping lead content and social media strategy for both internal and client efforts. It’s exactly the next step I was looking to take.
And I never would have gotten here without my safety net.
So, if you don’t have a safety net, it’s never too late to start building one. Attend a couple of events. Follow up with your new connections. You never know when those connections will come in handy.
I survived because I have a good safety net. And so can you.
Photo from Flickr by: Boston Public Library