A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a local career fair sponsored by The Center for Working Women, one of many services offered by Housing Opportunities for Women, that helps local disadvantaged women overcome barriers to employment and advance in their career. I was there with the Chicago chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (one of the many industries ComBlu has deep expertise in). Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) is set up to help its members advance in their careers, so this was our Chapter’s way to support another women’s organization—helping to expose them to jobs they might not otherwise know about and offer inspiration.
I was among a designer, paralegal, a title company rep and a property manager, prepared to tell the women about public relations and how social engagement is being applied to business, as well as how I got started in my career.
When I walked into the meeting room, I was immediately struck by a sign on each computer in the room that stated “Computers are not to be used to access any social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.).” Now, I fully understand that the folks running the Center are simply discouraging the women from spending the time they should be job searching, playing on Facebook. But, this really presented an interesting opportunity for me to showcase social media in a whole new light.
I spent my allotted 15 minutes explaining how public relations works (which can be tricky…I’m quite certain my Mom still has no idea what it is despite me working in PR for 20-plus years), showcasing fun examples of how we expertly crafted a story and sold it to the media. The women in the room had no idea there was ever anyone “behind” articles they see on the news and in the paper. I then moved onto the social side of our business, and described the blogger outreach programs, and showcased some of the communities we have built and managed.
A bit of a nervous speaker, I was not completely sure if the women were following me by looking at their faces. But, it was clear by their questions, they were fascinated by both the traditional side of what ComBlu does, as well as the social side. “How do you find the right people to invite to the right community?” and “how do you measure a program like this and report back to clients?” Clearly, they got it. I have to admit, I was surprised at the level of sophistication they brought to the conversation. Disadvantaged at some point or not, these women are clearly determined to improve their careers and thoughtful in their approach.
After the official session was over, I had the opportunity to mention LinkedIn as a truly social networking tool to several of the women in attendance, as well as the career counselors. Most had heard of it, but had not yet fully embraced it as part of an ongoing job search. I took that opportunity to tell them a little more and pointed them to my previous blog offering tips for maximizing LinkedIn. This certainly won’t get the signs taken off the computers, but may offer them a new avenue to explore.
Social clearly transcends all people at all life stages. It made me feel good about what I do, and it felt great to give back and coach a little. Do you have any similar experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear…