I’m a member of a number of organizations, some of which are, by definition, networking groups, existing for the sole purpose of helping their members make business contacts and advance their professional objectives. But I’ve never belonged to any group whose members were as willing to help as IABC members are.
I’ve found that saying I’m a fellow IABC member is as good as a secret handshake. Total strangers will stop what they’re doing, take my call, provide advice, share information, whatever. I know I’ve done it for others many times too. As a US-to-UK immigrant, I frequently hear from US members thinking of moving to London, asking for advice or contacts or information about how to get a work permit. If they were just random queries, from people I don’t have any special affinity to, I probably wouldn’t take the time. But because they’re a part of a network I believe in, I find the time, no matter how busy I am.
And that’s what I’ve found when I have needed to tap into the network, no matter where in the world. Again and again.
The latest was just this week, and I was tapping into the network to provide value to a client. The client is a major global corporation, with plenty of resources of it’s own. But what it needed was local market knowledge in a country where it has none. They’ve just acquired a company in Hungary, so the communications team needs to quickly learn the market, make contacts, find local resources (like PR agencies, translators, photographers), and understand cultural differences. The client asked me if I had any contacts there. So I did a quick search of the online member directory and found a member in Budapest. I fired off a quick email to ask for help, and within hours, I’d heard back. This member not only was willing to meet with my client when he visits in 10 days, but also offered to help open doors, and even recommended places to stay. My client, who is a relatively new IABC member himself, is amazed. It’s his first glimpse of the power of the IABC secret handshake.
I still remember the very first time I experienced it. I was working in a job I hated and I wanted to make a move. I was young and still new in the market I’d moved to — where competition for every comms position was stiff, and most of the best jobs were never advertised. It was clear that in this town, it was all about “who you know.” While I didn’t yet fully understand networking, I’d recently joined IABC, so I went to a local chapter event, hoping that might help. I remember sitting around a table with seven total strangers, and as we went around the table with introductions, I decided to ask for help. When it was my turn, I said I wanted to find a new job. Then and there, two people told me of positions they’d heard about, and offered to make calls to their contacts to get me in the door. Within a week I had interviewed for both, and by the end of the month I had a new job.
I could go on and on with my own examples, but I’d love to hear from others with stories of how you’ve received value from the IABC network, whether personally, or for your employer or client.