‘The more things change the more they stay the same’. This is a phrase that was coined in 1849 (source) and remains very true today. In spite of the technological world that we live in that reduces the virtual distance that exists between us – It does not change the fact that humans are social creatures. These technologies help to facilitate connections and community growth but people still need that face to face contact. In such a cluttered business and non profit environment – that personal interactive networking can mean everything.
My community is the Military Family Community. My role in this community is as a ‘seasoned’ spouse that has been through multiple deployments and long absences, many many moves, and even a three year posting separated from my husband for the sake of the kids. I feel that young people need an advocate and if I can assist in any way I would like to do that.
When we first moved to Ottawa I felt very isolated. We had always lived on Army bases where networking was built into daily life. Mess functions and Family days were frequent, and because the communities were so small, chances were that you were able to make an instant connection with your neighbour. The military community in Ottawa is spread across many communities without a vector for connection.
I stated a group. Military Families live on Facebook. The connection was easy. The group started small and has grown immensely, but what has made us different is the frequent meet ups that our group has. I organize monthly speaker breakfasts that are very well attended, welcome nights and games nights. All these events help people to find their way in their new community, assisting them to make connections of their own.
I started a blog. NoLifeLikeIt.com was born out of the group, designed to provide information to help families that was painfully lacking. Services and programs have been put in place to help but there hasn’t been a comprehensive way of getting this information to young families. This was the purpose of the blog.
Networking. in 2014 I was able to go to a True Patriot Love Conference on the Military Family. This was an exceptional two day forum that is still continuing to assist me moving forward with my group to this day. I was able to make many personal connections that have not only helped me with finding speakers for my group, but also to increase my credibility within my community. Once you have one federal director come to speak then it becomes easier to convince others that your group is worthwhile and that they should come to speak as well. I would not have been able to get the Ombudsman’s office to come if I wasn’t able to say that we have already had Military Family Services, and Dependent Education Management.
Plan for the next 6 – 12 months. The group has become its own networking opportunity for the people that come to these events. I host speaker events once per month, and have social evenings 4 times per year. We also run coffee mornings and games evenings. These are already scheduled for the following year.
Personal growth. While networking within my existing community is wonderful, I feel that I need to continue to embrace new learning situations as they arise. I recently took a two day Mental Health First Aid course. This allowed me to meet people from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. I also attended the Military Mental Health Research Symposium, allowing me to meet people from the Personal Support Program as well as some defense research scientists. I would really like to attend the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) conference in July 2017 in Washington DC. Education for military families is sadly lacking as children are perpetually playing catch up as they move from one provincial curriculum to another. The MCEC conference will be a fantastic opportunity to learn how the United States has tackled this same problem.
I do not get paid for any of this so I am not sure it can be called ‘Professional’ Networking, but I have found that I seem to be fulfilling a niche within my community, and hopefully helping younger families navigate the rocky waters of a Military Life.