I’m a big fan of networking and professional development. I’ve learned the importance of this from many friends and colleagues. No matter what you’re doing in life—whether it’s paid work or work you do with your family and in your community, and I include parents in this—you can benefit from getting together with others who are doing the same kind of work.  You share your successes, commiserate about what hasn’t been working all that well, and get help and advice on how to make things better. This goes on all of the social media platforms, e.g.. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. It’s wonderful that we have so many ways to keep in touch so easily with family, friends, and business associates around the world. Isn’t it great to share both the professional and the personal stuff—especially photos, videos, and notes that we’d share if we were closer? It makes the global village a little smaller.

You can learn so much all without leaving the comfort of your home or office. That can get too comfortable though. You need to be there. Every once in a while you need to step outside that “comfort zone”, which for me is easy, but I recognize that it’s not that easy for others.

I always enjoy the opportunity to learn new skills to help my writing business. I had that chance twice last week—first a meeting with some members of the Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) and then at a seminar with members of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and the Professional Independent Communicators (PIC)—the Toronto branch of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)  Sorry to throw so many acronyms at you, but you’ll be glad of them as I continue.

The CFU meeting was a chance to talk about where the organization’s work has helped its members, what to continue doing, and what to improve. It was also a chance to map out where the group wants to go in the future. One of the key things put on the agenda: regular networking sessions—both in person, and virtually.

I got to chat not only with other writers, but freelancers in other fields. We learned that while we may do different work, the challenges of the “freelance life” are not all that different. Haven’t you heard, “misery loves company” and “a problem shared is a problem solved?” Well, it’s true on both counts.

The same was true at the Digital Day workshop organized by PWAC’s Toronto chapter and PIC.  Writers and other independents working in communications [of all kinds] learned that they shared many of the same challenges. We also learned some strategies to make digital and social media work for us in more productive and lucrative ways. There were opportunities to do those things I talked of earlier: share successes, commiserate about what’s not working, and learn how to make things better. We heard too many great presentations to single any out so please do check the link to learn more.

Amongst all of this professional development was the opportunity to just hang out with friends I hadn’t seen for some time and catch up on their personal and professional lives.  It was also good to talk about non-work related things with them [and with new acquaintances] outside of the meetings.

I was also able to meet with clients, making for a very productive few days. I came home feeling both energized and exhausted. I’m filling up my calendar and wallboard with notations of new deadlines, and filling my work journal with new ways of using what I learned.

In my last post, Still No Resolutions, I talked about not being a creature of habit. But I also talked about my—okay, I guess it’s a resolution—to try and make some better habits. Keeping up my networking, both online and in person, and attending seminars like this will do nothing but good.

While you already may be networking online all the time, take—no—make the time to do some networking in person. Please share your experiences here (you could answer the poll too, if you’re so inclined. I’ve never tried one of those before.) Join me again in two weeks when I talk to some experts about getting out of that comfort zone to make your learning—and your earning—better.

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6 thoughts on “The Importance of Being There

  1. Great post, Christine. I LOVE networking, because as an extrovert, I am fuelled by social interaction. I learned from a Toastmaster friend that social interactions actually drain introverts, so that explains why networking is much more difficult for some of us than others. We introverts get our tank filled by networking and social interactions. Introverts find the same experiences drain their tanks. Fascinating stuff.

    1. Hi Doreen: I know you LOVE networking, as is evidenced by the fact that you belong to so many groups, and are able to keep up with all of them. I really admire that. I think the saying, “It’s not what you know;; it’s who you know” has always been true to a certain extent, but it seems to be even more relevant today. So getting out there–either online, in person, or both, is extremely important for finding, keeping, and building more work. Thanks so much for adding your comments. Your support is so important to me.

  2. I too feel uncomfortable at networking events but PWAC’s Digital Day certainly encouraged me to get out and do more. I loved the format and actually got quite comfortable sharing my thoughts with those at my table. I’ve also partnered in business with another writer who loves networking and she is helping bring me out of my shell too. Your post describes me exactly–I spend a lot of time nurturing my virtual connections but far less time on the face-to-face ones, and that needs to change.

    1. Crystal, thank you so much for visiting my blog, and for your comment. I’m glad the Digital Day event went well for you. It’s especially good to hear that you plan to do more networking. PWAC Toronto certainly puts on a lot of good events geared to both networking and professional development. I hope you will attend some of those to come “out of your shell” more. I hope you’ll visit here again too. Cheers!

  3. So true. Like many writers I am not comfortable in large crowds of strangers, unless I’m doing a presentation or teaching a class (i.e. in charge). I know that when I go to a networking event I’m not alone in feeling awkward, and a simple handshake and “what brings you out to this event?” question can break the ice, but it just never gets easier for me. But when I do put myself out there, after a who;e I start to see familiar faces at other events. And if I volunteer with the organization I get my ‘in charge’ comfort zone. And when the connections are made, even years later, I may end up gaining a new friend or a new business client.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Suzanne. You’ve given some great tips–an “ice-breaking” question, and the idea that if you keep getting out there you start to see some familiar faces, and make some great contacts, and that continues to pay off. Volunteering for an organization is a great way to meet even more people, and have that “in charge” feeling–and you have more input on what kind of events there will be. You’ve certainly done [more than] your fair share of volunteering–so you know of what you speak!

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