What comes to mind when you hear the word "networking?"
If you're like me, that word usually is met with an eye roll. Forced fun? Ugh.
I always thought "successful" networking meant I couldn't be myself. I thought I had to be this plastic version of myself, with a cheesy smile and a stack of business cards.
But, after a recent visit to an event put on by FUEL Milwaukee, I realized this — I was just doing it wrong.
FUEL is professional development group, an extension of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and focuses primarily on helping young professionals discover Milwaukee and make connections with other people in the same position.
At FUEL, the mission is all about being who you really are. No plastic.
The goal, according to Executive Director Corry Joe Biddle, is to help young Milwaukeeans "fall in love" with their city, helping them make lasting connections, and ultimately, keep them from leaving for other cities.
And for her, it's a mission she can personally identify with.
"I was going to move. I was going to go away to college and never come back," Biddle said. "I didn't see the vibrancy of opportunity, because I was on my side of town."
But things started to change for her when she forced herself to step outside of her comfort zone. After college, she got a good job in Milwaukee, explored other neighborhoods, and began to discover things about the city she never knew about.
And that's when she fell in love.
"Milwaukee is a great place in the world, actually," Biddle said. "You have to be able to enjoy the place you live. Is it perfect? It's not. But that's why we're here, to make it better."
Since discovering her newfound love of the city, she has made it her mission to spread the word about Milwaukee's assets through FUEL. Her organization hosts all kinds of events throughout the year — from its "Purely Social" informal networking sessions, to its more buttoned-up "Professional Development Bootcamp" in January.
Individual membership for FUEL costs $50 for a year. Members receive invites to all of FUEL's events plus access to "high level volunteer opportunities," according to its website.
Click the podcast player to listen in on a recent Purely Social session at Skybox Sports Bar in the Harambee Neighborhood, as well as more of our interview with Biddle.