And then I did Something Incredible.

Sometimes, something happens and it’s so good I can’t wait to write about it. Tonight was one of those nights.

I’ve been struggling lately to create a bridge between my day job and my professional goals. Professionally, I want to work with small businesses, helping them develop marketing materials and write compelling stories about their companies to put on their websites, etc.

I want to do this because I like listening to people talk about the subjects they are most passionate about; most small business owners are passionate about the industry they are in (thus, the reason they started a business in that industry) and working with them on these types of projects gives me an excuse to do what I love, constantly learn about new things (which I also love) and write (yet again, something I love).

It’s a win-win-win. In addition to doing this, I want  to take the anecdotes and stories, the unique ideas and inspiring tales that turn up and I want to turn them into articles for business magazines; I want to help others learn from these small business owners, while helping the small business owners I work with gain notoriety. That’s what I want to do, and the goal I am working toward in the activities I talk about here on this blog.

In actuality, at the moment, I work full time as the Associate Editor at Pet Business Magazine and Grooming Business Magazine, and I work as the editor and web editor on The Pet Elite. The primary audience for these publications is made up of small business owners; namely, the owners of pet stores. When I first came to this company, two years ago, I was still in graduate school working toward my Masters in Publishing. I took the job largely because it would involve actually doing things that at other companies I wouldn’t get a chance to do for a few years (like writing articles, editing stories, etc.).

At that point, the only time I’d been published had been in high school, when I submitted a poem for my guidance counselor’s book, High School’s Not Forever. I had taken professional editing classes and knew a lot about the industry but the only experience I had to back it up was an internship at Columbia University Press, where I had mostly drafted interdepartmental memos (although overall, that internship was phenomenal).

Lately, there hasn’t been much room for me to grow in my current position. I know how to do my job, and can’t really learn much without taking on new responsibilities–but I can’t do that because then I wouldn’t be able to complete my current responsibilities. I was recently passed over for an internal promotion (more about that in another post), meaning it’s unlikely I’ll get a chance to learn more that way any time soon. So I’ve been trying to focus my attention on trying new writing techniques, making connections that could potentially be valuable even after I leave the company (which, while I’m not looking to do that immediately, is clearly something that will happen eventually) and develop skills that will help me achieve the things I want to be doing.

Well tonight I attended a networking event for pet industry professionals. I went representing my magazine(s). If you were there, you probably wouldn’t have noticed that anything monumental happened–because for most people, it wouldn’t BE monumental. But at networking events I generally act like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, hanging out near the food rather than flitting from conversation to conversation like a social butterfly.

Tonight at the event… I talked to people. Not only did I talk to people, but I INITIATED conversations. I used a “day job” event to work on a skill that I’ve been trying to develop. I used the networking event to meet new people. This is a pretty big milestone for me, and it’s one I foresee helping me in a lot of ways in the future, as I continue trying to build my freelance business. Tomorrow, I’ll provide some solid tips on how I overcame my fear… but for now, for all of you who like me, know that you too can learn to actually network at networking events.

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