The Wonderful, Awkward Truth of Online Networking

With a college degree behind me, letters after my name, and a killer resume I was certain I would find a job sooner than later. Unfortunately, it is much harder than it used to be. The economy this, the economy that… it has become “who you know” in a dog eat dog world.

I have had the privilege of meeting great people through the steps I took in practicing networking, which I would recommend to anyone to start now and stick to it! What I failed to mention in my blogging about my experiences in networking is that there are boundaries that come with differentiating people as friends and as contacts.

The hard lesson I learned is a contact can become a friend, but a contact is not always your friend. Please let me elaborate. Most of the contacts I have met have been through networking events, mutual friends or other contacts, jobs, or internships. The key word is met.

For a contact I find on LinkedIn or Twitter, I am communicating with them but have not met them yet. If the communication leads to a meeting, then the connection can evolve. If a meeting does not happen, then do not force it. If I have met him or her already, the communication has a familiar setting.

There is no right or wrong way to network with someone and genuinely want to stay in communication with him or her. The friendships will form naturally, while contacts are there to promote you in support of what you are going for in life. It would be awesome if your friend was in your contact list and was supporting you in your career choices as well, but this does not always happen. We are all human with similar thoughts and feelings. Do not take the boundaries to heart or allow them to get you discouraged. Some contacts are as friendly and eager to help you as you are to them. In the end, some people just might surprise in a positive way.

Signs to tell if Your Contact is Just a Contact:
• He or she is not a friend on Facebook.
• You only know him or her on social networking sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, Triberr, Pinterest, etc.)
• You have sent a thank you card to them for helping you out. (e.g. referring you, job lead, advice, etc.)
• You have asked if he or she can introduce you to another contact within the same job or field (if you know he or she already knows the contact).
• Contact mentions the communication between you and him or her has crossed the line or has become inappropriate.
• Contact does not respond to your e-mails, phone calls, or letters. Ever.
• Contact responds to you and asks you to refrain from communicating with them again.
• Contact repeatedly asks how you know him or her.

Signs Your Contact can become a Friend:
• You want or have added him or her as a friend on Facebook.
• You want to call him or her and invite them to lunch to catch up.
• You schedule time to catch up over the phone if lunch is impossible.
• You update him or her on your interests or changes in direction you are taking.
• Contact is receptive to your communication efforts.
• Contact asks specifics how the last update you gave is progressing.
• Contact accepts your friend request on Facebook, follows you on Instagram, follows you on Twitter, recommends on you on LinkedIn.
• Contact encourages you with your concerns and experiences.

What are some ways you have differentiated a contact from a friend? Or have evolved a contact into a friendship?

This is a foray into some honest discussion about stuff we’ve all encountered in the age of online networking. If you haven’t encountered any of this, you’re either a master of digital socialism or not trying hard enough.

This article was originally crafted and published in May on the Ad Buzz.

Is It My Time Yet?

We all go through different kinds of seasons where we wish some would pass us by quicker than others. We look at those around us and wonder, “Is it my time yet for ______?” (Fill in the blank.) I can be transparent and give you hope that you are not alone in this. I am in a season where I see people around me in a career instead of a job or in a relationship that is genuine, and wish it was my time. From the outside looking in, it appears other people have their life put together better than mine because it’s all coming together for them. This is where I sit back, seek God’s will and perfect timing while pushing forward through faith. I have humbled myself and realized everything is a learning experience to help me grow. I can only get better by learning from the experiences I go through.

Going as far back as high school, I remember trying out for Drum Major to lead a 3A (80 or more member) marching band. My gut told me to try out and my hard work kept me there. It was stressful because I wanted everything to be perfect and planned out, but it didn’t always happen.  During my interview with Publix almost 7 years ago, I talked about being a Drum Major and helped give me the job I hold today. An opportunity to move up into the office to lead others and manage more responsibilities came within 3 months. It is my job to handle a fast-paced environment and adapt to the demands of the day, which gave me an ability to flexible. After 5.5 years, I was given another opportunity to work in Apron’s Simple Meals as a meals clerk. This is another branch of customer service, but now I handle food and manage myself while serving customers food. Honestly, I have enjoyed the “Hey ya’ll, I’m Paula Deen” feeling and have grown to enjoy engaging with the public by myself or in a group setting.

In beginning of this year, I was in a college class called Advertising Campaigns. Everyone has told me their own “horror” story of how it consumed their life for entire 16-week semester. I laughed because I thought my experience would be different. (To make a long story short) I became Campaign Director, which allowed me to put on the hat of leadership and humility to ask 18 students to follow me and finish a campaign we had started. It was not easy to motivate everyone and get us all on the same page, but I did what I had to do to keep us moving in the right direction. This experience allowed me to see the “big picture” before it came and be decisive about which step to take next. It was my time to step up and trust in my faith that I could do anything I put my mind to by God’s gifts he has given me.

During Advertising Campaigns, I helped B-Fit Personal Training Centers with whatever the owner, Jason needed to be done. It started out as office work, but quickly became a way for me to speak to his members online. I was given permission to help manage his fan page on Facebook, which I still do to this day. My passion to have a voice and represent the company by  developing a connection with people over food and health. Now, it has branched into the CrossFit Experience with member wanting more ways to get in shape.

Currently, I am interning at the Dalton Agency and have a taste how client, business, and employee relationships really work. All my life I have known the retail or school enviornment, so this was a nice change. I remember going into the interview excited about an opportunity to be a brand ambassador for McDonald’s, but leaving uncertain if I was going to get the intern position. I decided to shake the doubt and share my experiences and promise I would give them my time and talents to do more. After my second of three reviews, I have realized my past experiences and seasons of change have brought me here for a reason. I was given this tough season to endure this “busyness” of internship, work, and school to increase my work/life balance. I have committed three days a week to interning, which has allowed me to “dabble” in different areas of the agency side while working on the McDonald’s account.

I will be graduating from college in December which seems like a long ways a way, but it’s only around the corner. I know it may not be my time for the things I want in life, but I am getting closer by going through the experiences that will help me get there.