Networking–A Refresher Course
Back in July 2006, I started a series about Networking by relating an experience I took advantage of when I saw someone I’d worked with at the newspaper doing a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble ($3, Book–$12, Networking–Priceless). While nothing ever came of that opportunity, here’s another one that has worked out for me.
In the spring of 2005, I was halfway through grad school, serving as VP of ACFW, and working in a job that was just sapping all joy from me. I wanted to break into the publishing industry and was willing to do it from either the marketing or the editorial side. A friend of mine e-mailed me one day that the then-publisher of Warner Faith (now FaithWords) had announced on a published-authors’ loop that he was looking for an editorial assistant.
I immediately put together a resume package and drove down to the office and dropped it off. As chance (or Providence) would have it, Chip MacGregor was coming through the lobby on his way out of the office. He stopped, recognizing me from the several times we’d crossed paths at previous ACFW conferences. He didn’t have time to talk then, but took my resume with him on his out-of-town trip.
A couple of weeks later, he called me in for an interview. He told me that the position had been reallocated, so he didn’t really have any job to hire me for, but that he’d still wanted to meet with me. We discussed my career plans (he gave me some of the best career advice I’ve ever received, which led to my eventually becoming a copy editor at another publishing house). We then started talking about ACFW (I was Vice President of the organization at the time). Our conversation turned into a working relationship as Warner Faith became the sponsor for the next year’s ACFW Genesis Contest for unpublished authors.
At the 2005 ACFW conference, I took Chip’s continuing ed. course, which I learned so much from, but also used it as an opportunity to do a little more networking. He even introduced me to one of his editors who was at the conference.
In 2006, my manuscript was a top-five finalist in the Genesis contest. I hadn’t planned to attend the conference, but when I learned my status, I decided to go just for the awards ceremony. It would give me a chance to see a few friends—and it would give me the opportunity to speak to the agent I really wanted to submit to. And, while I was there, I planned to connect with Chip MacGregor, just to keep that line of networking open.
Upon my arrival at the public book signing (just before the banquet), I heard that Chip had announced earlier at the conference that he was leaving FaithWords and starting his own agency. I knew then that I needed to submit my manuscript to him. So, fighting back my abject fear of putting myself forward and initiating a conversation, I caught him in the hall. He was on his way to an appointment but was more than willing to look at my submission. I got his business card and tucked it away. I did the same with the agent I’d originally thought I was there to see. I’d been so sure God had been directing me toward submitting to the first agent that finding out Chip was now back in the agent-game just seemed icing on the cake.
The first agent resoundingly rejected my manuscript. A few days later, Chip called and asked for a full. I signed with him just a few months later.
As an unpublished author, being signed by one of the top agents in the industry was a miracle in and of itself. As a pragmatist, I can look back over the past few years and see all of the times when my path crossed Chip’s and I made the effort to network with him. As someone who has spent years learning how to network, I know that if I had not recognized and taken the opportunities to forge a professional-level relationship with Chip, he might not have been so willing to sign an unproven author.
Networking still does not come easily to me—especially now that I work in a small office, I’m not going to a week-long residency with seventy or eighty other students twice a year, and I don’t usually find myself in situations where I’m having to exert myself. So I have a feeling getting back into the swing of networking is going to be harder at the 2007 ACFW Conference in two weeks. But I’m going to try to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.
Okay, your turn now—what results have you seen results from professional networking?