Taking My Online Professional Network Offline

August 15, 2012

Editor’s Note: Four months ago, LinkedIn and Citi launched Connect: Professional Women's Network to create a place for women to discuss their careers. The group quickly grew into a vibrant community of women and took on a life of its own. Around the country, professionals in the group have begun to arrange local events with other Connect members. On August 1, the New York City area women of Connect met in person for the first time. This is a guest post by Linda Descano, CFA®, President and CEO, Women & Co. and Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, North America Marketing, Citi, recapping the event.

This month, I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural meet-up of New York City-area Connect members. Not even the rain could dampen the enthusiasm of the 20 or so women who gathered to exchange ideas and insights on an array of topics, from the personal to the professional.

Connect -- technically Connect: Professional Women's Network -- is a collaboration between Citi and LinkedIn to bring professional women the best curated and original content and resources on topics that matter most to them, including some of the career-oriented content from the Women & Co. team. I'm a member and I hope you are as well!

In launching Connect, we hoped to ignite conversations that were so compelling members would be inspired to continue those conversations in person. So, when I heard member Eileen Grussenmeyer was organizing a meet-up across town, I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday.

And what an amazing evening it was! I loved the diversity of experiences, skills, and industries represented by the members present -- I personally walked away with at least 10 new connections outside of banking! I also was struck by how quickly the conversations shifted from small talk to "business" talk on meaty topics, such as the power of emotional intelligence and work-life integration, to name a couple. Nothing like a group of time-pressed, success-oriented women to get down to business!

But what probably impressed me the most was the strong bond forged among the women, although most had only connected online a few months or even weeks ago. The sense of trust came through in the candor and openness of what people shared and the sense of community came through in how others responded. I've written extensively about the importance of women helping women, and to see a group so invested in each other's success simply was the best birthday present ever!

Being part of Connect has changed my perspective on networking online. What has your experience been like on Connect or any other online networking vehicle? What makes an online network valuable to you? Share your stories with us in the Connect group.