Using Technology to Professionally Network in the Midwest

Using Technology to Professionally Network in the Midwest

CHICAGO – Professional networking has traditionally been a face-to-face interaction in which people meet for the first time in person.
Since the technology boom, the networking landscape has changed thanks to the introduction of innovations such as e-mail list servs and online social networking. People no longer have to initially meet in person to start building relationships.
The Midwest has been generously affected by this new technology as evidenced by a lively community of people using these services.
E-Mail List Servs
E-mail list servs are a community of people who are connected through an e-mail group such as Yahoo! Groups. Subscribers of these lists receive information and advice from other members who help them to find job and business leads, career information, freelancers and business information.
These lists can even be used for personal reasons such as sharing information about items for sale, neighborhoods to live in and contractors for your home.
In order to use a list serv, you need to subscribe to the group, post announcements and respond to announcements. When an announcement is sent to the group, you have the option of either responding to the individual or the entire group. If you respond to an individual, you can begin to network and build a relationship.
If you frequently participate in the list by posting announcements and responding to announcements, you can begin to make a name for yourself in this particular community.
One such thriving local list serv is ChicWIT, which is part of the Chicago chapter of WorldWIT. WorldWIT was created by Liz Ryan (a fellow ePrairie columnist) and has 70 organized groups with more than 30,000 subscribers in 23 countries. More than 7,000 people subscribe to ChicWIT, which makes it one of most active communities anywhere.
WorldWIT operates other lists in the Midwest for central and southern Illinois, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. In addition to operating list servs, the WorldWIT groups also produce their own offline networking events.
“While face-to-face networking at events and one on one is essential, it’s also really, really time consuming and expensive over time,” Ryan said. “Online networking is fast, efficient and incredibly empowering. We hear stories every day from people who hired great employees, found jobs and found business partners through ChicWIT and the other WorldWIT groups.”
Another successful local list serv is the Chicago Company of Friends (CoF), which is operated by the Chicago chapter of Fast Company’s Reader Network. The Chicago chapter is coordinated by Dan Limbach and has 800 or so people using its list serv. Through its network, thousands of Fast Company readers and other professionals operate dozens of groups around the world, produce their own events and operate their own list servs.
In addition to Illinois, other Midwestern chapters can be found in Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Additional chapters can be found here.
“The CoF is a global online and offline community of self-organizing groups of new economy thought leaders, change agents and free agents,” Limbach said. “Members help each other build skills, solve problems and improve their careers, companies and communities.”
Online Social Networking
Online social networking is a way to connect with new peple through the Internet by tapping into other people’s personal networks. Members of these systems are able to search for and view other people’s networks. Once desired contacts are found, members can contact other members who are connected to these people and ask for a personal introduction.
Personal introductions are not required and are at the sole discretion of each member. Many of these systems exist and each system has its own unique features to facilitate online social networking. What remains the same is the fact that you are virtually and instantly connected to thousands of people who you might not otherwise have had access to reach.
Some systems upload all of your Outlook contacts into your online network while others require you to invite people into your network.
Even better, some systems take things a step further and analyze your contacts against other contacts and let you know how many degrees of separation you are away from them. As a result, a very powerful system is developed that shows you how many people you need to go through to connect to desired contacts. A great resource for these systems is OnlineBusinessNetworks.com.
A local professional organization that has been providing online social networking for several years is Chicago-based YoPro, which was founded by Michael Slater and Mike Zeinfeld. YoPro is a young professionals networking organization that produces its own networking events and allows its 3,000 registered users to connect online. (Disclosure: Columnist has a role with YoPro.)
Members are able to search for other members based on a variety of categories such as name, city, company, industry, profession and school. YoPro gives its members the option of filling out three different profiles (general, dating and professional services), which other members have the ability to search.
“YoPro users have expressed obtaining all of the following as a result of using our Web site: customer leads, investors, business partners, job candidates and employers,” Slater said, adding that YoPro’s online system lets members know how close they are connected to people in their online network. The system also allows members to invite contacts into their network.
Another local group that has been providing online social networking is Ryze Chicago, which is the Chicago chapter of Ryze Limited. Ryze is a business networking organization that has chapters in more than 100 countries. Each chapter offers a mix of online and offline networking.
Currently, Christian LesStrang facilitates Ryze Chicago by producing monthly events for the chapter’s 500 registered online members. Before LesStrang took over facilitation of this group, Ryze Chicago catered mostly to technology professionals. The group currently caters to a mix of professionals from all industries.
“I took over the facilitation of Ryze Chicago because I wanted to add some value to the Chicago networking scene by [producing] a monthly event that mixes technology professionals with other industries,” LesStrang said. “Right now, I feel that Ryze Chicago’s members are a great mix of cross-industry professionals.”
At Ryze’s May 5 event at Butterfield 8, LesStrang coordinated a networking game in which he handed out online member profiles and told attendees to use these as an ice breaker to meet other members. LesStrang did a good job of mixing Ryze’s online and offline components.
Similar to YoPro, Ryze shows its members who they are connected to, allows members to search for other members and lets members invite people to join their network.
Final Thought
The above-mentioned networking organizations offer a good combination of traditional and technology-enhanced networking through e-mail list servs and online social networking. By utilizing both methods, you will be able to better network with other technology professionals in the Midwest.
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Jason Jacobsohn is currently the director of group communications for YoPro and the vice president of the Networking and Professional Development Committee of the DePaul Business & Technology Alumni Network. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.
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The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.