Networking, paying it forward and a request for help

16 Feb

Do you know anyone, anywhere, who needs an editor, writer, marketing or communications professional?

When I was cutting my teeth on corporate America, working as a proofreader at an advertising agency in Lexington, Kentucky, the person who made the connections to get me that stepping-stone position was a male executive in the company who took the time to read a short résumé that demonstrated little experience except for award-winning essays at two colleges, including a piece analyzing a song by Joni Mitchell. He remains a dear friend to this day.

Try as I might, I couldn’t ascend from proofing to writing during the one long year I spent in that company. Whenever I heard an ad rep fretting because the copywriter was out for the day, I would dart out of my office into the hall and literally throw myself at the poor salesperson’s feet pleading, “I can write it!” But to no avail. When all my attempts to write copy at the ad agency ended in disappointment, I moved on to the local newspaper, where I was finally allowed to write – in the Creative Services (Promotions) department. Here again, it was a male editor who gave me my chance to cross train in the newsroom, so that I could taste the life of a reporter, a skill I later capitalized on when I had my own company and the paper became my client.

Many more stories would reveal that it was the men in the journalism, media and marketing worlds that were nurturing enough to help me get all my first big breaks. Most women I had met along the way thus far seemed to take the attitude of, “Good work getting this far, good luck getting any further, and oh, by the way, I’ve been your supervisor for the past six months so I just thought I’d say hello. Let’s chat again in another year or so.”

This repeated experience was what later prompted me, while working for myself as a successful freelance writer, to found and direct a non-profit organization based on the concept of successful business women mentoring low-income, undereducated women who needed a chance to discover their talents and find better job opportunities. I worked at this for a good five years before one day suddenly realizing that, while helping others get a leg up, I had inadvertently stopped bringing in an income for myself. It was then that a female friend and colleague suggested I do an interim stint at a travel association that needed an editor for its full-color monthly magazine. During that time, another professional female fostered my initiation into the travel industry so that I eventually took the position full-time.

I’ve been working in travel writing, editing and marketing ever since. And whenever someone writes or calls me asking for networking help, whether they are young or old, male or female, experienced or not, I always follow the model set for me early on by Jim Gleason and Jim Durham, and later by Susan McDaniel and Catherine Prather, and I go out of my way to read the person’s résumé, conjure up good connections for them from my network, call someone who might know a great contact, or e-introduce them to the most likely connections to help them get where they want to go with their career. I do this automatically, without thought; it’s my lot in life to be this way, a characteristic, like having crazy hair and green eyes. It’s what I do; I pay it forward.

And now, I am in a position to ask others to do this for me. I need to find new paying contracts that can utilize my editing, writing and marketing skills in a telecommuting capacity, either in the travel industry, or anywhere else. Book publishing and online publishing are of interest. I am based in an office in Winchester, Kentucky, where I can keep an eye on my mom. I can travel for up to two weeks at a time. My bio, experience, references, publications and other CV elements are all right here on my blog. Do you know anyone, anywhere, who needs an editor, writer, marketing or communications professional? Is there anyone in your network you could put me in touch with via an e-introduction?

My early mentors demonstrated that networking only works when everyone plays the game, when each person in the chain tells others what they need and what they want, when we all pay it forward – and that’s there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. Thanks in advance for any connections you can provide. I hope you will let me know how I may, in turn, help you.


10 Responses to “Networking, paying it forward and a request for help”

  1. Raven Mahosadha February 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    This is a great piece Frances. I enjoyed it very much. I too have been on both sides of the networking coin and have had tremendous success on both ends as well. In my life, and so many people’s lives in the world (Oprah, for example has spoken often about the people in her life whom she believes helped her get where she is today. She always speaks the loudest and most affectionately about the man who gave her the first network job she held–a job in which this man defied everyone above him.)

    I have found that for me networking is really a lifestyle choice. After reading this piece, I’m imagining it is for you as well.

    • Frances Figart February 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

      Thank you, Raven, for taking the time to reply here. I feel its important to use all the resources available to us and, like you, I have amassed a tremendously supportive network of friends and contacts. Everyone knows me as someone who will help others in any way I can, and so, it is both humbling and empowering for me to reach out to others for their assistance now that I find myself in a transition during the reign of a tough economy.

  2. Janet D. February 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    Hi Frances…If I had a connection, I’d share it with you. I’ve actually been considering getting a certificate in Copy Editing, but I’m concerned to take the year to do that and end up with no work. What are your thoughts/advice about this…if you don’t mind me asking!

    • Frances Figart February 17, 2011 at 6:47 am #

      Personally, for many reasons, I would probably not take the time to get that certification, but it might be the perfect thing for you to do. Please keep me posted on your decision.

  3. Tammy Horn February 17, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    What a beautiful piece, Francis! I’ll keep my eyes and ears open…

    • Frances Figart February 17, 2011 at 6:29 am #

      Thanks, Tammy, I know you will. I admire all that you are doing and “bee-ing.”

  4. Cindi February 17, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    Hey Frances, I posted the link to this blog post and a general question to my FB list f friends to see what kind of connections my friends might have. Even if they don’t have an immediate need, they know someone who does!

  5. Mark Rogers March 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Hi Frances,

    Last year I started my own company called go! Destination Marketing. Primarily I produce travel-agent targeted newsletters for clients like the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Thailand Tourism Authority. I’m now moving into a quasi-partnership with Blackberry creating travel apps for their Playbook and Blackberry phone users.
    Our initial concentration will be the Caribbean and Latin America. My business partner Melanie Reffes and I are putting the finishing touches to our Kingston app and hope to launch it in early May. If this is profitable, I’ll be seeking out writers to partner with on various destinations and splitting the profits. Much of the work researching an app can be done at home, but if the writer has a personal experience of the destination, they can bring their own insights and opinions to the app.
    If this sounds at all interesting I’ll keep in touch and let you know if it would be worth your while.

    • Frances Figart March 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      This, of course, sounds very interesting to me and I would love to be of service. I always enjoyed working with you in the past, Mark. You’re a great writer and communicator and I will check out your web site to learn more. Keep in touch, by all means.

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