Building Relationships and Networking: It works.

Building relationships with people and taking the opportunity to network without expectation of return can lead to huge things.

Building Relationships and Networking Works

by Rob Zaleski
Originally published on LinkedIn

Let me tell you a story. A story about how simply building relationships with people and taking the opportunity to network without expectation of return can lead to huge things.

It all started with Mark Schaefer’s blog, Businesses {grow}. As an avid blog reader, I did what most people do: I’d leave my commentary on the blog and add feedback on other people’s comments, share the posts when I felt it appropriate, and tried to be part of the blogging community (as a blogger myself). In February 2013, Mark ran an email contest surrounding his upcoming book release with Stanford Smith, Born to Blog. These two authors were among my favorite bloggers, so I felt compelled to at least try and win the book. I sent the email laying out why I’d love a free copy of the book, and shared my interest in the topic.

To my surprise, I received a personal response from Mark that very day. This led to an exchange in which we ended up discussing SXSW, because I live in Austin and SXSW was just around the corner, and that perhaps we’d run into each other while he was in town. I figured the exchange would end there.

About a week later, again to my surprise, I received another email from Mark, inviting me to join him and a group of friends and visitors for dinner and drinks while he was in town for SXSW. After completely geeking out for a few minutes, I responded that I’d love to meet them.

When I got to the restaurant later that week, I met Mark in person for the first time, as well as Stephanie Wonderlin and Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, among others. We had a blast, and it was an interesting night full of marketing and social media talk. We all started following each other on all the important social sites (as you do), and went our separate ways. I figured it would be a one time thing and that would be that, but I was thrilled to have taken Mark up on his offer.

Mark W. Schaefer at SXSW
I was obviously pumped to meet this guy.

I kept up with everyone online because I genuinely enjoyed talking to them, and great conversations continued throughout the year (you should check out Stephanie’s GoPro capture of her wedding). Now, fast forward to the next year; Mark announces that he’ll be speaking at SXSW 2014 on the topic that had recently become very hot: Content Shock. I congratulated him and told him he’d have to let me know how the talk went, as I couldn’t afford a SXSW ticket this year. Being the generous guy he is, Mark reached out to me via email to let me know that he received a free day pass as a speaker, and asked if I’d like to use it so I could attend his talk. Who could say no to such an offer? I attended, and the talk was fascinating. If you haven’t seen Mark speak, I highly recommend it.

Being a fellow marketing professional and friend of Mark’s, Kerry O’Shea Gorgone was there too. Afterward, we got to talking, and Kerry invited me to hang out with her and a few others as they hit up some other discussions and the trade show floor. I originally planned to hit a bunch of other separate talks alone, but I decided to forego my initial plan and hang out with some cool kids instead. I had a complete blast, and was able to meet even more people because of that decision. Again, I figured it would end there (I still wasn’t getting the hint).

A few weeks later, I received a Facebook message from Kerry. She told me that a position had opened up at MarketingProfs (where she does the Marketing Smarts podcast and Professional Development seminars) and that she immediately thought of me for it. She asked me if I’d like her to put me in contact with the proper person. As a fan of MarketingProfs and their vast resources for content marketers and social media managers, I knew that simply interviewing with the people there would be a huge networking opportunity (I wasn’t actively looking for a new job at all), so I took the chance and said yes. What followed was the most fun series of interviews I’ve ever had, including a fantastic conversation with Ann Handley. Being that MarketingProfs has always been an information source I’ve personally gone to as a Content Marketer, the entire time I figured they would never hire me. Surely, they wouldn’t hire me. Maybe they’ll hire me. They might just hire me. They offered me the position.

To sum it up, two years worth of making real connections with people turned into a huge opportunity. I wasn’t trying to get anything out of Mark or Kerry. I genuinely respected both of them and simply enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) having conversations with them, both personal and about marketing. So take those chances, utilize those opportunities to get to know people by being personable. At minimum, you’ll make great friends. At most, it may alter your course.

A Blogger not Blogging

Confused  Face
Mind…boggled…

If you’re a blogger, I don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to keep pumping out interesting and relevant content. I haven’t posted in a while. Partially, it’s because I’ve been swamped with a gazillion other things, and partially because I’m having an existential meltdown. These things happen, I suppose.

Whenever I work out, I listen to podcasts: Marketing Over Coffee, The Human Business Way, The Content Warfare Podcast, Social Media Marketing, and others. Sometimes, I have no idea what they’re talking about when they dive too deep into the true marketing and analytics side of social media marketing. I’m a people person. I love the people and social side of this digital stuff. The numbers and ROI and analytics are all things I’m struggling to pick up. Recently, there have been a slew of interviews with Seth Godin and C.C. Chapman, both promoting their respective books. These interviews have been inspiring, invigorating and terrifying…

Podcasts worth listening to
Some of my favorite podcasts from geniuses on the internets

Both of these guys are pretty into the human side of things. They also tout the mantra of “find what you love, and go make money doing it!” I love that. It’s brilliant. It’s obviously the key to happiness. Just one problem…what if you have no idea what you want to do with your life? How do you commit gung-ho to something when you have no idea what it is? This is the conundrum that I find myself in.

I write this blog. I feel I’m ok at it. I’m not terrible, but I’m no Mitch Joel or Chris Brogan and don’t believe I ever will be. I work in social media as a community manager. I’m pretty good at it. I write some content that gets engagement, and I love the interactions when it does happen. I’ve worked in retail and was pretty good at that, often loved by my customers. Nothing ever seems to fully click, however. I never feel like, “Yes. This is what I should be doing. This is that gratifying thing I’ve been searching for!” Now, I’ve never been fired from a job, so maybe I’m not experiencing Seth Godin’s idea of having to fail to succeed. How does one push oneself into new and dangerous territory, when you just don’t know where to start? This, readers (all, like, 8 of you), is the situation I find myself in. Any advice for a lost soul? If you made it to the end of this post, and my existentially grasping questions, thanks for hanging in there. I’ll get back to writing about social media soon.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

Follow this blog on Google Currents! Download the app in your app store or marketplace and click here to subscribe.