Event: GMR Charlotte Networking Breakfast
“You are among friends.”
For someone who was a) going stag and b) trying to keep her hair from frizzing, those were welcome words. See, I’d been living under the misapprehension that networking events were gatherings of plastic people with painted-on smiles, whose greatest professional talents seemed to be sucking up to the big shots in suits. And the idea of confidently walking up to someone in a place like that and starting a friendly conversation seems utterly impossible, as I just assumed every person there would be trying to top everyone else.
Maybe some networking events are like that, but the 7 a.m. breakfast at GMR was genuine to the very last drop of freshly brewed coffee. Everyone was there to help everyone else. It was an “all for one, one for all” kind of situation. I highly recommend this monthly event to anyone in the Charlotte area who is part of (or wants to be part of) the marketing community.
What to expect at your first breakfast
Be sure to arrive at the GMR Charlotte offices by 6:45 a.m. That will give you enough time to stop by the breakfast table. (I helped myself to some coffee, strawberries, a bottle of water and some type of delicious little pastry – yum.) Then the newcomers are instructed to sit at a table in the middle of the room. The meeting begins with a pretty standard icebreaker – Mike asks everyone at the table, one at a time, to stand up and introduce themselves. (Another suggestion – if someone’s elevator speech particularly sparks your interest, write down their name so you can make a point to talk to them after the breakfast.)
Then the conversation is extended to the rest of the room, and people are encouraged to bring up issues for discussion. It was at this point that I thought, “It’s just like a support group. A support group for people pursuing their dream jobs.” And it was. Someone would ask a question, and five people would jump at the opportunity to provide a helpful answer. Those recently hired were congratulated. Others, who you could tell were frustrated with the seemingly endless job hunt, were cheered on. The atmosphere was positive and full of hope. And as many times as Mike reminded us, “You are among friends,” he also told us, “You’re going to get there.” And he wasn’t simply trying to comfort us – he was stating a fact.
The breakfast features a different speaker each month. August’s guest was Emily Hudgens, director of Speedway Children’s Charities. A person genuinely passionate about giving back, Emily led an inspiring discussion on the value of volunteering. Some of the benefits she highlighted:
- You’ll discover skills you never knew you had.
- Volunteering evaporates stress.
- You’ll meet people. Maybe a new bff. Maybe the CEO of Coke.
Emily also offered two tips:
- Volunteer as a servant, not as a job seeker. Your hidden agenda will be sniffed out.
- Afterwards, write down your experiences. Reflect on lessons learned.
I left the networking breakfast inspired. And excited. And happy that there are a ton of people right here in Charlotte who are working with each other – rather than against each other – to achieve their goals. It’s a very cool thing.
If you’d like to learn more about the GMR Charlotte Networking Group, check out the group pages on Facebook and LinkedIn. To get on the mailing list and receive an invite to the next breakfast, email Bethany Wilson at email@example.com. Hope to meet you in September!