Meetup.com is a top-notch resource for making friends and building your professional network. Between it and joining my current church, my life has changed profoundly. Go to the home page, create a profile, and enter your zip code. Groups in your area, started by members like you, will display. There are social groups, business networking groups, activity-based groups, and if you can’t find one you’re interested in, you can form one yourself, for a fee.
A family member suggested Meetup to me as a way to get out of my shell, and possibly meet single women. No dates so far, but the members of the social Meetups are my new best friends. Many of the members are young professionals from out of state. It’s a relief to find other people close to my age since nearly everyone I know from high school is tied down with families. People marry early in Iowa, except for those who weren’t raised here, or people like me who are highly selective.
When I was laid off from Yellowbook/Hibu, I struggled to find new employment for several months. A friend from the 20s/30s group suggested I join the Open Coffee Meetups in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. These are entrepreneur and business groups, and I might find someone who would hire me. After telling the group I was a 7-year veteran in print advertising, Liz Nichols approached me saying she needed part-time help promoting her business. Liz is the proprietor of RE Advantage Capital LLC; she’s a broker who helps real estate investors get funds to buy commercial property or fix-and-flips. She was my first client as a web designer and digital marketer. By getting a taste of contract work, I got it in my head that maybe I should be my own boss. The Open Coffee Meetups are great for getting advice and insight for navigating the professional world.
One thing you can do after making contacts in Meetup is looking them up on social media and adding them to your network. The Open Coffee groups were my gateway to discovering the Corridor’s startup community. After toiling in the corporate world, it was uplifting to meet so many creative thinkers solving problems and generating income for themselves and others. It gives me hope for the economy. I friended them on Facebook, and through them met other creatives in the corridor. I learned of the Iowa Startup Accelerator, the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC), Venture School, co-working spaces like Vault and the IC CoLab, 1 Million Cups, Startup Weekend events, and a small Facebook group called “Think and Drink”.
I knew after leaving Yellowbook I still want to help small businesses advertise, but print is on the way out. Meetup has provided an education of sorts. I joined the Creative Corridor WordPress Meetup to learn web design, and the Corridor Marketing/Digital Media Meetup to learn best practices for the online world. Vault has its own Meetup Group that recently started “Lunch and Learn” gatherings. They help freelancers and solopreneurs develop business strategy and find clients.
Meetup.com is essentially an ice-breaker service. It introduces you to individuals with common interests that you’d have trouble approaching otherwise.