The Short VersionIn January of 2009, I started One Connection Away, an advertising and marketing networking group for folks in the Seattle area. We started with 5 people and quickly grew it to a roster of over 150 members and 75+ 'alumni' who have since landed full-time or contract positions.
We created this blog, a LinkedIn group with job and discussion boards, and we have hosted numerous guest speakers on a wide variety of relevant and pertinent topics. We’ve even taken on some pro-bono work in the non-profit arena.
More importantly, connections from the group have directly helped people land jobs.
The Not-so-Short, But Meaningful, VersionIn 2010, during the final round of interviews with a global advertising agency, I was asked to describe a "Wow" moment from my career - "a time when I'd done something so impressive and awe-inspiring that I couldn't help but pat myself on the back." Ironically, my moment didn't come from putting together an award-winning campaign or from selling a client on a piece of creative that would launch a new product with results 86% above their sales goal. Rather, my moment came from helping a single person land a job by connecting her with someone who knew of a job.
Looking for work myself, after countless hours in coffee shops networking with friends and former coworkers and clients who had also been recently laid off, I wondered, "Instead of meeting individually with folks, what if we got together as a group?" I knew this person and that person, and even that person over there, but they didn't know each other. And each time I had met with someone individually over coffee in the past, someone who was also going through the job hunt, we always left feeling better - having shared our frustrations, our triumphs, leads, and tips - and knowing we weren't alone in the process. If it worked through a one-on-one connection, why not with five or six people?
In January of 2009, I started One Connection Away, an advertising and marketing networking group for folks in the Seattle area. We started with 5 people and rotated our meeting spots between coffee shops in various neighborhoods. (I did mention Seattle, right?) We initially called ourselves The Stuart Smalley Society, because we realized we needed to remind ourselves that, "Darn it, we're good enough, we're smart enough, and people like us." And someone, somewhere was going to recognize the talent that sat on the other side of the desk and make an offer.
Seeing the benefit of getting out of the house and conversing with others, we decided to meet once a week to discuss search strategies, job leads, and to offer support for one another. Word spread and quickly we were getting too big to descend on the local hangouts. Luckily, Larry Asher, who runs the Seattle School of Visual Concepts, offered up space in his building. It's a somewhat symbiotic relationship. He provides a room, and we send folks to his classes and workshops - and we make sure we promote the fact that he's helping the creative community by giving a 50% discount to those who have lost jobs.
Since our inception, One Connection Away has grown more than 2,000% to an active roster of over 100. A portion of that includes 40+ 'graduates,' who have landed full-time or contract positions, but want to stay connected. We have the blog, a LinkedIn group with job and discussion boards, a Twitter account, and we have hosted numerous guest speakers on a wide variety of relevant and pertinent topics. From SEO/SEM to resume writing and interview tips. From social media and marketing to discussions of ROI in the interactive industry. And introductions to nearly a dozen local creative staffing agencies.
The formation of the group has even led to some pro-bono consulting work in the non-profit arena. While not necessarily providing a means to pay the bills, it has allowed some of us to keep our skills up to date. And it's given us a way to engage our brains in something other than wondering what to serve for dinner.
So, getting back to that "Wow" moment. It came when one member landed a job that another member had brought to the group. The connection worked, and after announcing the hiring news to the group, another OCA member wrote:
"Hey Kelly - This is your doing. ... clearly you are making an impact on people's lives."
Needless to say, it was a "Wow" moment.