Biz-cards Many years ago, I was working on contract doing technical writing in downtown Toronto. When the woman who hired me invited me to a meeting of her professional association, I went. To be polite. The next day she asked me what I thought of it. Being young, green and rather foolish, I answered: “Well, the speaker was pretty good, but I would rather stay home than go out for potato salad and cold cuts.”

Ever so wise, she looked me in the eye and countered: “Donna, you don’t go to these meetings for the bologna, you go for the networking.”

Her sage advice was lost on me at the time, although for some strange reason I can remember this conversation verbatim years later.

Up until that point, I had been hired for full-time jobs and contracts based mostly on luck. As well, I had benefited from networking, even though I would have referred to it as “who you know,” as in “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I actually viewed this as a little shady!

More than 20 years later, I have become an inveterate networker; it has been the single most important factor in the growth of my business.

Lately, I’ve met a few people who have been let go from long-running corporate jobs, and have to start from scratch to build a network that will lead them to a new opportunity. Truth be told, I feel sorry for anyone today who has no online presence and no in-person network. They’ll be banging their heads against the wall searching through job ads.

The message is clear: Start building your in-person network right now. Join a professional association; go to meetings and get involved. Create a profile on LinkedIn. Consider blogging or Twittering about a topic you’re passionate about. Not only will you learn immeasurably from the people you meet; you’ll also be building a powerful group of friends and colleagues who want to help you succeed.


  1. Such sage advice, Donna; thanks for sharing. I’ve always prided myself on making connections and keeping them throughout my 25-year career in CC+PR. Keeping your connections, and increasing your network, is all about taking a genuine interest in others’ careers and their professional and personal achievements. Also, it means being willing to learn new skills, attending workshops and events and opening up to diverse points of views. Membership in CPRS and IABC has been invaluable in building my network.

  2. Donna, you are so right! And IABC and HPCA have both been invaluable to me as well.

    A lot of people look on networking as something awkward, where you push yourself on others like the stereotypical salesperson. As you well know, better to go in looking to meet interesting new people and to connect with other like-minded folks. And be helpful; introduce person A, who is looking for a service person B provides, to person B. Sometimes people expect an immediate payoff; while sometimes there is, it’s better to realize that good things happen over time.

  3. Excellent advice from a master networker Donna! I know that by reaching out, I have benefited in so many ways. Take the HPCA – which is where I met you and Sue Horner, and here we are all these years later still “networking” with each other!


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