The day is April 26th, 2019, it's 4:35 p.m. and the last thing I want to do is wait around for three hours, 45 minutes from home, before going to a networking event. That event, a Women of Toledo M.o.M 'Speed Mentoring' session, was at 7:00 p.m., and the thought of going had me almost sick to my stomach. It was beautiful outside. The kind of spring day that has you believing that Summer would be coming earlier than usual and the type of weather that almost requires you to do an outdoor activity. Being that I commuted every day to the Maumee area, I had no desire to fill my time away from home. I wanted to be in comfy clothes, outside, drinking something cold, and spending time with the dog. However, I had signed up for this networking event, and while I did not want to go, my gut was screaming at me telling me I couldn't skip it. And I'm so happy I didn't.
What I failed to mention is that just a few weeks before this event, I had taken on a new role at Sunshine Communities as the Director of Donor Relations. As I said, I was now commuting 45 minutes from the Findlay area and honestly, I knew no one. Up until this point in my career, I had gone to school in the Findlay area, completed internships in the Findlay area, and became a professional fundraiser in the Findlay area. My life and relationships revolved around that part of Northwest Ohio, so when I decided to take a job elsewhere, I knew I was going to have made all new connections. That's why I had signed up for the WOT networking event. The Facebook event promised the opportunity to meet women leaders in the Toledo community and I knew I had to go. However, like one of my favorite sayings goes - I was just not the same person on the evening of the 26th as I was the week before when I signed up and committed to going. The person I was in this moment, hours before the event started, was not the person who wanted to be out networking. However, I went and to this day, I still thank God that I did.
When I arrived at the event, I was greeted by Nina. We all know Nina and absolutely love her for her warm and bubbly personality. Within just a few minutes of walking in, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The event flew by. I met with women from all walks of life. An author whose husband was a felon and she wrote about it. A librarian whose main focus was to help small businesses. A creator and educator who helped people build networking skills. A business owner who created a women-based group that helps women grow their businesses and network with other like-minded business owners. It was like God knew exactly who I needed to meet and put me right in front of those women.
Fast forward two years, almost to the day of my first WOT networking event and I'm now very heavily and very happily involved with WOT. And, maybe even more importantly, my relationships with many of the women I met that warm Spring evening have grown into strong friendships. That first WOT event was the last place I wanted to be, but it was the exact place I needed to be. I owe my entire Toledo area network to that event, those who I met at that event, and the connections they've helped me build since then. I think it's easy to look at organizations like WOT and only see them as networking opportunities or a place for resources, but for me and many others, it's so much more. It's the organization that has helped grow me into the woman I am today. It's allowed me to meet so many new people, but also build a wide array of skills from event planning to social media. I am grateful for the time I've spent with WOT.
I want to just encourage you today to get out, go network, do something out of your comfort zone, walk into a room full of people where you know no one. I know it's intimidating. I know it's scary. I know you'd probably rather be sipping on a cold ice tea, sitting on your back porch watching the dogs play, but I promise you, it will be worth it. Even if you walk away with just the satisfaction that you did something to grow you that evening, you will be happy you showed up. And besides, you never know how one 2 hour networking event could change the course of your life. So, will I see you at the next WOT event? I sure hope so!
Sierra Hutton is the Director of Donor Relations at Sunshine Communities. She also oversees the Social Media and Digital Marketing platforms for Women of Toledo. In her free time, you can find Sierra spending time with her crazy dog, Meigs, or with her friends and family. She also is passionate about health and wellness and spending time in the sun.