Whether you run a small storefront business or a large corporation, or are looking for a job or a career change, the power of networking can unlock startling opportunities and bring new business or unexpected professional options.
Learning from two successful Latinas who have built their careers through their networking skills could give you easy ideas to follow and help you find your own networking style.
Are you a people person?
As in every aspect of their business or career, Latinas have options to develop their networking skills according to their personality. Do you feel comfortable talking to people? Can you just walk across the room and start an interesting conversation with a complete stranger? Are you the “icebreaker queen”? Do you know everybody in your community and their cousin?
“Personal networking landed me a contract to be the official photographer at the 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston for one week,” Delfina Flores, owner of Al-fin Photography, told VOXXI.
Flores, a photographer in Houston, is also the President of Hispanic Women in Leadership (HWL), an organization that gathers over 400 professional and business women in the Greater Houston Area.
She believes in the “old way,” the old school of visiting clients and keeping in touch, even if business is not necessarily conducted at every occasion. Having lived in the community for a long time and being active in several organizations’ boards, everybody seems to know Flores in Houston.
“Photography is visual, so I believe in the power of seeing my clients one-on-one. If they see you or they hear from you frequently, they remember you,” she said. From family affairs to large sports and business events, Flores has built a substantial portfolio of loyal customers with personal networking.
The avid photographer believes Latinas have a different way of building relationships. “We are warmer and more family-oriented. Latinas have a personal touch, a way to connect through culture. Even if you don’t see each other for a while, when you meet again, it is just like yesterday.”
Latina networking and the power of the Internet
Are you a computer whiz? Do you thrive on tweeting to people all over the world at 3:00 am while checking your feeds and posting on your Facebook and Google+ pages?
Rebecca Aguilar has built and nurtured her Wise Latinas Linked network, a dynamic online community of 4000+ members on Facebook, with her savvy online skills and persistent dedication.
A bilingual news reporter, social media and web content manager, digital multimedia/video producer, consultant, and multiple Emmy winner, Aguilar is also the vice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
“When you network with an open heart, an open mind and the willingness to share, there are no differences between Latinas and other groups,” Aguilar told VOXXI.
She belongs to a number of networking communities where she finds common ground that allows her to become an active participant in each one.
Either for pursuing her professional activity or her passions and hobbies, Aguilar believes networking is built on the ability to share thoughts openly and fearlessly. “You have to be open about sharing your opinions but also open to listen to other opinions, and agree or disagree with respect,” she said.
She started the Facebook community in 2009 to give Latino women their own space, and the extension of her networking power has gone beyond her wildest dreams.
Two years ago, she received a message from a man who was writing on his wife’s behalf. She had recently died from cancer, and even in her last days, she had asked her husband to bring her laptop to the hospital. “She wanted to know what Wise Latinas were talking about,” Aguilar shares in awe. “Our community had touched this woman in such a way that it continued feeding her soul even when cancer was eating her body,” she said.
As young children, many Latinas have been told to shut up or be quiet to avoid the ramifications of their opinions, Aguilar believes. This online community provides many Latinas with the opportunity to communicate without restrictions about personal and professional issues to an audience of women that are listening.
All in all, both Flores and Aguilar recognize the power of giving back. “Always giving back to the community has been a motto of my personal and professional life,” Flores said while Aguilar concluded “No matter if it is face to face or through social media, networking is a ‘give and take’ exchange that creates success, confidence and business friendships.”
So, whatever your personality or your ability level is, you might want to put on your “networking hat” and give it a try. Remember, it is not only who you know, but also who they know. Connections you meet at networking events, board meetings, committees, or online networking might finally produce the results you are looking for.