My Austin Story
Last May, I moved to Austin without knowing a single soul. Moving to a new city and starting a new job makes for quite the transition, but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge so I added meeting new people to that plate.I know what you're thinking, introverts out there. Meet people?! Sounds scary and not so fun. Trust me, I may be an extrovert in general, but networking and making friends can make me (and really anybody) nervous. So hopefully you especially enjoy this post!
After doing my own research, I didn't feel like I was gaining any traction for finding the right groups for me. A quick Google search led me to Austin Young Chamber. I did a little digging, signed up to be a General Member and then just paid dues for about 6 months without actually attending any events. This is where I tell you, don't be like me and let a membership sit stagnant for 6 months.
At around the same time I joined AYC, I also discovered the world of Meetup (game changer). Being a marketer, the Austin chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) was a no-brainer as well as Team Austin. Between the two groups my first several months here were filled with coffees and happy hours meeting lots of new people while expanding my network. This also coincided with the start of Honeycomb and these two groups were fundamental in the first few months of growth. If it had not been for both Team Austin and AMA, I wouldn't have met my mentor, first client, or financial advisers. Seriously cannot stress enough that networking is SUCH a powerful tool.
Austin Young Chamber
I'm going to speak specifically to AYC for a bit. I could write an entire blog post on why you should join AYC if you live in Austin, but at the end of the day it comes down to finding a group that works for you. Unlike most professional organizations where many events feel like you are Oprah throwing out business cards in hopes that maybe one of those turns into a solid lead, these are real, authentic connections.
First off, don't let your membership sit stagnant for 6 months. When I finally decided to go to my first AYC event I walked away with several coffee meetings and even more connections. In one week alone I went to two events and instantly regretted not getting involved sooner. Around this time, they were also promoting one of their signature events, the FAVE awards. I decided to go even though I didn't really know anyone in the group yet. Honestly, this is just me saying that when you jump good things happen. So jump friends, even when it feels uncomfortable and you go to a black tie gala alone. I promise it's worth it.
But you might be saying to yourself, "It's just another professional organization, why should I go?". I'm so glad you asked. Here's a couple reasons I am an AYC Member (#notsponsored):
- Authenticity: Okay so I saw you roll your eyes at the word authenticity. But it really is true, these people are as genuine as they come. Beyond that, their hospitality is next to none. You might come to an event as a stranger, but you won't leave as one. Unlike a lot of groups where it feels like you're an outsider and everyone is somehow already connected, AYC does a really great job of getting outside their "bubbles" to make everyone feel welcome.
- Real Connections: This isn't just a new stack up business cards that will collect dust on your desk. The connections I've made through AYC helped me grow my business faster than I could on my own. Beyond growing a business, I've made true friendships and met people in a wide variety of industries.
- Knowledge is Power: Beyond networking events, AYC offers plenty of opportunities to grow as a professional. It can be difficult at times to find opportunities to grow your skill set particularly if your company does not offer courses or workshops. AYC fills this gap by bringing in experts and other professionals in panels, workshops and forums. This in and of itself is worth what you pay in membership dues.
All this to say, AYC has absolutely changed my Austin experience for the better. If you're here in Austin and have more questions about AYC, comment on this post or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love to tell you more!
BONUS MEMBERSHIP DISCOUNT:
Also #notsponsored. There is an awesome membership special going on for 25% both General and Elite memberships. So if you're thinking about joining now would be a great time! You can sign up here. I can't wait to see you at an event!
4 Tips for Making the Most of Networking
Here's a few of my tips for making the most out of your networking:
1. Find the right groups for you.
I shopped around when I first moved to Austin. Not every group is necessarily for you and that's okay. There are dozens of groups here, but I found three that really worked for me. Go to events, meet people and then find some groups you want to dive into. Not sure the best groups in your city? Check out Meetup as a starting point. I found AYC on Google so don't underestimate the power of a quick search.
2. Don't be afraid to make the first move.
This one makes the introvert in me cringe a bit, but it also helps push me out of my comfort zone. Don't be afraid to be the first one to introduce yourself. There tend to be pockets of people at networking events and sometimes it feels like everyone knows each other and then there's you. I've learned that sometimes the most effective strategy is just finding a group and shaking some hands. Soon enough you're part of the group. I usually try to do this and move through the room meeting different groups. It's easy to just gravitate towards the people you may know, but making the most of an event means getting out of your comfort zone. Push yourself a little and make the first move.
3. Follow. Up.
So you met a lot of people at the event and now you have a lovely stack of business cards. But here's the deal, the business cards don't email or call themselves. Connecting with them on LinkedIn isn't enough if you're seeking real connections. It's about getting to know an individual on a more personal level. As a consultant, referrals are my bread and butter. It's not enough for someone to have my business card. The real work comes in building those relationships. In my experience, it is the single most rewarding part of going to these events and getting involved. I've met my business mentor, financial adviser, collaborators, and friends all because we actively worked to build that connection. So follow up, ask for a coffee meeting or a happy hour. You never know what kind of doors it may open.
4. Get involved.
For the first 6 or so months I lived here, I simply went to the events and seminars and coffees. Sure, going to events is great. Meeting new people and following up is great, but the real value comes when you dig a little deeper. It can be as simple as volunteering at an event, but getting involved in an organization's committees or volunteer groups only increases the value you'll receive from being a member. It's easy to be passive and strictly participate. Push yourself to dive in. You might just be surprised at what happens when you invest a little more. I know my experience in AYC has only become richer since getting involved in committees.