Blog: Angela Kujava

Puppeteering and robot-rigging are no small perks when it comes to Angela Kujava's volunteer work. A certified financial planner and investment management analyst, Angela is also the board president for 826Michigan and co-founder of YP Underground. Over just one week she'll make a strong case for Gen X and Y to lead non-profits, build retirement funds, and turn business networking connections into true friendships.

Angela Kujava - Post 2: Speaking of those social safety nets

The word "networking" often conjures up the image of slick guys in suits uncomfortably pressing their shiny business cards into your hand.  Or maybe some exhausting exercise of patience, listening to people convince you that they have the magic product to fulfill your unfulfilled needs, all the while forcing yourself to persuade them of your virtues in return.

While that does indeed happen, several groups have been established to give networking a new identity focused on friendship building in conjunction with, and as opposed to, professional promotion.  There need be no argument that this involves much less stress, and is just as effective a means of advocating yourself or business.

Especially in these times of uncertainty, it is essential to look beyond the purely promotional reasons for networking.  Building a solid network of fellow professionals and creating friendships, not acquaintances but friendships, is knitting your own social safety net.

As the former co-chair of Leadership Ann Arbor, I did my best to stress this concept right off the bat.  In an environment in which 40-60 participants meet with each other once a month it is easy to underestimate the importance of furthering those relationships outside class.  The same applies to any networking groups in which you are involved: it's not enough to show up once a month.

A quick example—one night I may or may not have found myself involved in an impromptu puppet show in front of an audience of several local business types.  I knew only one other person in the room, and strangely that one person was not my fellow puppeteer.  As unusual as it was, and as absolutely silly as it sounds, my new partner in sock hand crime quickly became a great friend, and has often given me invaluable professional advice.  Not only that, she has been a constant source of encouragement, especially when I felt in crisis.  All this due to a spontaneous moment of levity (that may or may not have happened).

Opportunities to meet exciting, professional people in Ann Arbor are scattered and without cohesion (often a major complaint among the very same population), but they do exist in large numbers.  Leadership Ann Arbor, as I mentioned above, coaches local business people on effective and responsible citizenship.  Having chosen to take part in this Chamber program for three years I will, of course, stress its importance.  More than that, I can honestly tell you that it utterly transformed my life in very positive ways.  But I have found that to be the case with all the networking groups I’ve joined, as long as I have put forth the effort to simply continue relationships outside the scope of scheduled meetings.

The Chamber has several of low-cost options available to you, but if money isn’t in your arsenal right now there are also plenty of free choices.  You can join YP Underground on Facebook, and come out to have a drink with 50-70 people once every six weeks(ish).  At the time of this writing, boasts 158 groups in Ann Arbor who meet to share common interests spanning art, hobbies, pets, science, religion, etc. You’ll probably find that soon you’ll be invited to a party, poker/movie/girls'/guys' night, or even someone's wedding.  Just as important, when you find yourself in a moment of distress you’ll be comforted knowing there are a whole slew of people right around the corner you can contact to help you figure it out.

Please list serving a non-profit board in the category of "fantastic ways to meet fascinating people."  Tomorrow I'll discuss the significant impact doing so has on both you and your community.

This post originally appeared in Concentrate.