It’s human nature to feel the desire to belong to something bigger – something that makes us feel important, useful, and purposeful. As we grow up, that desire never disappears, but it changes and moves in between phases.
When we are kids, we dream to be picked first in gym class. For some reason, we all dread the thought of being picked last in an intense game of Dodgeball (how humiliating, right)?
When we’re teenagers, we desperately hope to be invited to the cool kids’ house parties when their parents go out of town (yes, I’m looking at you – don’t act innocent).
When we’re in college, we hope to be accepted as part of Greek life or any type of academic, charitable, or young professional organizations.
When we begin our careers, all bright-eyed and filled with ambition, we hope to become part of professional communities that will help carry us to the top of the ladders and help shape us into the professionals we always knew we would become.
We are always longing to belong to something, which we know and endlessly hope will lead us toward bettering ourselves and being accepted by our peers, mentors, friends, and family.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur on your way to becoming the next feature story in Forbes Magazine, or if you’re an intern starting from the bottom of the totem pole at a big fancy-pants corporate empire, the importance of community in business is still everywhere. Rich people, poor people, young people, old people, introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between…we all desire to be part of a community.
My trusty friend Webster defines community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
Communities are support systems. They are places for like-minded individuals to gather and bond over similar interests. When it comes to business, the communities you choose to associate with are going to be some of the biggest influences in your professional life, and they will provide you with the opportunities to meet influential people in your industry, the will provide you with opportunities to collaborate with people at your level, and they will provide you with opportunities to mentor and teach those newer at the game than you are.
Communities in business are all about give and take. [Tweet this]
You teach. You learn. You support. And oh what a beautiful dynamic it is!
Find your community
These days, online communities are just as important as your face-to-face communities. Both of these suckers are important, and they are equally as simple to get involved in.
There are plenty of ways to find your face-to-face communities, and you’re probably already a part of a few without even realizing it (your residential neighborhood as an extra easy example). When it comes to your business communities, however, you may need to go out and search for them. Attending networking events for your industry is the best way to put yourself out there and to become part of an in-person community.
Fun fact about me: as soon as I moved out to Washington, D.C. when I first graduated from college, I had no job, no contacts, and no apartment. I went on a whim. I had nothing but myself, my two suitcases, and my older brother’s generosity for letting me take over his living room for a month before I found my way. When I arrived, the first thing I did that week was find a networking event for people in the PR industry, and I just showed up. I wore heels, and I remember regretting it the entire time because I didn’t realize that I would get lost on the Metro system, and then have to walk a mile to get to the right location. People looked at me like I was crazy because I didn’t bring a business card to a public relations DC networking event – that’s very frowned upon out there. Whoops! However, by putting myself out there and going to that first event that week, I eventually landed a job, thanks to one of the most amazing and helpful women I know (…Margie, this is you), and I even made my first actual non-businessy friend on the East Coast (…Lauren, this is you).
Face-to-face communities are the scary ones if you’re an introvert, but they are so worth the mental challenges once you can bring yourself to get past them. The people you meet and the skills you learn from in-person networking are invaluable, and these communities will always be your strongest ties and strongest support systems.
Find places for your niche community by doing a quick google search. You can search for conferences, classes, and meet ups to find a group of professionals to meet with in person.
Volunteering is another way to belong to a face-to-face community. This is something that I struggle with because I always think that I don’t have time to do it. This is not true. I have plenty of time to volunteer – I just need to make the time, and so can you! Volunteering puts you in a position to do greater good, and it also puts you in a position to meet new people along the way who share your same sense of philanthropy. Commit to volunteering somewhere for a month, and see how it goes! You can take it from there once your month is over! (I’m doing this starting October 1 when I land in Nashville, so we can go at this together if you’d like)!
Find places to volunteer in your area.
Online communities are hugely beneficial as well. Especially these days when so much of our businesses are run through the interwebs, we have so much more access to people in the industry that we previously never would have had. Seriously – if you send a tweet to a celebrity, it’s not that unlikely to get some sort of response from them. If you tried 10 years ago to send fan mail to a celebrity, good luck ever seeing a note back! The digital age is incredible, and there’s no better time than now to take advantage of it.
Until recently, this blog was all about how to market your business online. My mentality changed when a reader emailed me and told me that she was excited to join my community.
I didn’t realize that I was building one! But, the truth is, I am. I am building a community of small business owners and bloggers that want to learn how to rock at using the Internet for their brand. We may be a young community over here on this blog, but the questions I get asked in emails frequently turn into blog posts (like this one), and that’s what community is all about. Support systems. If you’ve got a question, reach out to someone in your online community for help, and this is the type of response you’ll get!
If you’re struggling with something in biz, chances are that you’re not alone, and other people will have the same questions that you do. The answers to your questions can be found through online communities, and you can learn endless amounts of information from them (quickly, thanks to high speed Internet)!
If you’re a female reading this blog, you may find that Project Eve is an amazing community for you. For women in business and entrepreneurs alike, this community is empowering, generous, and helpful. I met one of my guest bloggers, Liz Theresa, through Project Eve, and we frequently bounce ideas back and forth about how to manage our social media marketing businesses. She lives in Boston, and we’ve never even met in person! But we share a common interest in business through the Eve community, and we both love helping small businesses get better at marketing online.
If you’re in PR, fitness, hospitality, fashion, retail, etc, there are communities out there for you to join. If you can’t find one that resonates with you, then begin creating your own! Find blogs that cover your topic of interest. Comment on articles, ask questions and answer questions in community forums, participate in online discussions through Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, and you’ll see your community begin to develop.
You’re never alone in your business venture… so it’s important (and you’ll never regret doing so) to join online communities. [Tweet this]
Other benefits of joining communities
- Communities help grow your audience and build brand recognition.
- Communities provide learning opportunities from peers and pros.
- Communities provide teaching opportunities for the newbies in your field.
- A sense of belonging provides a sense of confidence in yourself and in your business. [Tweet this]
What communities are you a part of, and what opportunities have come from them? What advice would you give to someone on a mission to join or build their community?
Share in the comments below!
(Photo: this is from the Eat Live Run! meetup in Austin, Texas)