My professional life started off like most college graduates. I started my career after college with a great job at a local insurance company in IT. My career and social life revolved around my job. I really had no outside interests that would support any goals besides what I received from my boss at my annual performance appraisal. Outside of work, my evenings would consist of either going out with friends from work or watching TV, but there was not much to fulfill and inspire me to change my life.
Fast forward to 2007, I was getting the sense my longest tenure at a professional company, a large retailer, was coming to an end. There was low morale and a lot of negativity. I did not feel as negative as my colleagues, but I was getting consumed by my surroundings and I started to think that there needed to be something different out there.
Then one day, I received an email from my alma mater Northeastern University about a Boston Alumni Networking Event at the Alumni Center. I was thinking, networking? Is this an IT thing working with switches and routers? Yes, I was that out of touch with the outside world.
The day of the networking event was one of my worst days at the large retailer corporate job. There was a round of layoffs and the tension was high. I stayed in my office with my door shut thinking about how I can get out of the place. Even though I was a shy introvert, I thought to myself, I need to go to this networking event.
So that evening, I went to Northeastern University for the first time in a long time and arrived at the event. I looked around and noticed all of the well-dressed happy personable professionals and thought I was on a different planet. Why was everyone so friendly and wanting to help me? This is not Corporate America. I am scared, so I pretended to go to the rest room a few times.
My first networking event ended up being a great experience. I met some fellow Huskies and was intrigued about the next event where they were going to have a speaker about starting your own business and being an entrepreneur. I felt a new affiliation with my alma mater and was looking forward to the next event.
For the second event, I saw some of the same professionals I met at the first event and had some amazing conversations about careers and business. When the speaker went up to give his presentation, I noticed that I felt happy and was lock step listening to what he had to say. One thing that stood out was the option to start a business while still working a corporate job.
Later that evening, I ended up meeting a fellow Husky, Sue, who introduced me to her health/wellness business and I mentioned how I would love doing the same. What? Little old me running my own business? I was sensing that my lifetime goals were starting to change on that warm April evening in 2008. So I went for it and started my own business.
The networking bug started to catch on. I started looking into events all over Boston and even Providence, my hometown. I got myself some business cards with my new side-business company name, AIMC Websites, and started to meet professionals. I did not have a Linkedin Account before I started networking, but after only one year I achieved the milestone of 500 connections.
With networking, I also noticed my former introverted self was becoming an extroverted connector. I was no longer shy and would go up to people, introduce myself, and I would always ask what brought them to the event and asked them about their business and what they liked the most about networking. Meanwhile, even with a new corporate job, my "side-business" started to grow and I was enjoying the extra income.
After a few years, and going to hundreds of events, I cracked 2500 connections on Linkedin. I learned the art of going to an event, connecting to professionals, following up and helping each other out. I was thinking, "why not start my own networking group"?
My side business AIMC Websites was now called AIMC Business Solutions and I was providing social media services and website solutions for my clients. I was getting pretty good at the social media thing too alongside my networking skills so why not promote my own networking events?
On January 16, 2013, Mass Professional Networking was born at Uno's Bar in Framingham, MA. I use social media to promote the event and over 100 professionals attended. I was psyched! I starting doing monthly events in the Metrowest area outside of Boston but then eventually gravitated to downtown Boston to run monthly events starting in 2014. I was still going to other events, including the Northeastern Alumni Networking Events. I was the connector and the entrepreneur, which I loved.
Networking has changed my outlook on life. It got me out of my shell and has introduced me to positive entrepreneurial professionals that has led me to believe that I can do anything. I am working to achieve financial independence by 2023 by growing the revenue of my businesses to a point that I will no longer need to work in corporate America. If I did not attend that first Northeastern Alumni Networking Event back in 2007, I do not think I would be running my own networking group with over 2000 members and I doubt that I would be talking about early retirement from corporate America.
I recommend that you get more involved with your alma mater and if they have a networking or social event, attend it and see what happens. It could change your lifetime goals like it changed mine.