Old School Social Networking: Meet Some People in Real Life

It’s been about a year since I made a major change in my professional life. Last summer, with another Celtics season behind me, I remember walking home from work and wondering to myself, “What am I going to do with myself this summer?”

Working for a professional basketball team means late nights, 70-hour weeks, watching three or four games a week, and scarce free time for the better part of six months — eight months if you make a run to the NBA Finals. So when the offseason arrives, it’s something of a relief, but there’s a bit of a void as well. You’re not used to 40-hour weeks and if you’re like me, you can often find yourself, well, bored.

But boredom was only part of the equation. More than anything, I realized that I worked in digital media, an environment that changes almost daily, and yet I knew very few professionals who had similar lines of work in Boston. While I had made plenty of contacts across the sports industry, my digital marketing/social media network was non-existent.

And sure, you can learn about the digital industry by reading and tweeting every day. But you can learn a lot more by talking to people. In person.

While I’ve always been outgoing (some would argue I’m borderline obnoxious), one thing I’d never been completely comfortable with was going to networking events. I always felt like my free time shouldn’t be work-related, precisely because it was so limited in the first place. And talking to strangers in a forced setting never appealed.

But I’d decided I needed to make that change. I went to a few networking events thrown by the gang at BostInnovation, a group of young entrepreneurs who are all involved with a host of different startups here in the Boston area. And after meeting some interesting folks at some of those events, I actually started looking forward to the next gathering. Then I started to actively seek out new events, while continuing to stay involved with the gang at BostInnovation.

Between going to networking events and getting more active with social media for my own “brand,” if you will, things started to change and change quickly.

Launching peterstringer.com and finally activating my professional twitter account (@peterstringer) led in part to speaking about the Celtics’ digital marketing efforts and success at conferences around the country, something I’d never even considered in the past. After each panel or presentation, another opportunity was knocking. And suddenly, my eyes opened to the power of networking.

Real world networking, that is.

In the past year, I’ve probably met about 100 professionals I didn’t previously know. That number may not be very impressive, but for someone who actively avoided networking events in the past, it’s a sign of a sea change in my own career. It hasn’t been a 100% positive experience; by becoming more visible, I’ve made myself very accessible to pesky vendors who’ll use every possible angle to approach me with their miracle social media software.

Overall, that’s a small price to pay.

So if you’re not doing it already, get out there. Meet some people in real life. Just like the good ol’ days. It won’t hurt. I promise.

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