The Humanity of Networking

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By Mark A. Leon

A few years ago, I was asked to represent my company as a speaker in San Francisco for Hirepalooza. ?It was an honor to be asked to represent my company’s brand and image, but who would say no to speaking at a conference call Hirepalooza?

The few days I spent there speaking, listening and most importantly engaging, reminded me of the essence of recruitment. ?From the resumes stored in file cabinets to Chrome Extensions allowing you to track down any human being, one element has remained over the years, the human relationship.

I went out there thinking everyone wanted to work for a start-up, work 100 hours a week for three to five years and then drive off into the sunset with their Tesla and big bag of money. ?It turns out my stereotype was shattered. ?What I did find were many intelligent young students and professionals that are struggling with the same concerns we all have about careers and the future.

During the conclusion of day one, I was sitting with two academic students during the post seminar networking event and I asked them both, “What Makes You Great”. ?They both laughed and shrugged their heads. ?Neither had an answer. ?I continued saying that we are all filled with greatness. ?It is a pool of passion, courage, risk and determination. ?It is the combination of those energy sources that takes your from mediocrity to greatness. ?Once you find your own personal inner greatness, you can’t ever not succeed in life.

I continued for several more conversations with these students even after I returned to the East Coast providing some level of counseling and advice.

This past Friday, I spoke with David, a UC Berkeley junior I also engaged with during this event. ??This most recent conversation was a result of an email he sent me earlier expressing how discouraged he was with networking and the lack of connection. ?Before I even said hello, I told David he was far too young to be this cynical and that life will get more and more challenging with the shift toward digital connections and away from human relationships.

This led into an hour and twenty minute candid discussion of which the entire time I was reminded of what an important connection I had made.

David is at least twenty years my junior, but I can learn as much from him about life than anyone else in my inner circle. ?He is wise beyond his years and sees the world from a new digital perspective. ?He was raised on the mobile phone, apps, computers and gaming. ?I think Wiffle Ball, tag and running bases are foreign terms to him.


He sees the present from an immediacy perspective. ?I see it from a watch the sunset and lay under the stars ideology. ?He sees responsiveness as immediate based on sound bite approaches. ?I see calculated responses based on research and understanding.

Still, we talked and talked and talked. ?At the end of the conversation, he had to go pack for a trip to Oregon where he and some friends were going to be in the great outdoors without wifi for a few days. ?It was a fitting reminder of what a life can be when you connect to all the elements and turn off the technology mechanism.

I live in a world with 9500 LinkedIn connections, 2800 Facebook Friends, 12,000 Twitter Followers, 24,000 Instagram Followers, 2900 Pinterest Followers and 5 close friends.? We are more focused on our personal brand, than who we are as a person.? I’m sure that sounds familiar to many.

I still believe in a common truth that human connection will always be the key to personal happiness. ?I believed that when I chased my brother around the block on my bike when I was 10 years old and I believe that today.

David is that living breathing evidence of a connection I made in 2015 that remains strong today. ??He sought me out for advice on careers and I learned a little about life.

At the end of the day, a tiny piece of electronics will make our lives easier, but human emotion will make it fulfilled.

From Vision to Reality: It Girls of Charleston – A Community of Acceptance and Friendship

By Mark A. Leon

Charleston is changing before our eyes. We are a melting pot of
locals and transplants sharing diverse ideas and lifestyles. Finding true
and life-long connections is a challenge we all face. The It Girls of
Charleston has created a solution for the women of the Charleston
area. By creating a safe environment built on relationships,
community partnership and social engagement, they offer women in the
Charleston area a place to connect and find personal and emotional connections.
We had a chance to sit down with the founder/organizer Jamie
Sprenger to learn a little bit more about the driving forces that led to this
energetic community that will be hosting a Brunch and Bachelorette
auction to support the Children’s Tumor Foundation [1] later this

CD:? What is the catalyst and driving force behind creating this networking community??

JS: I moved to Charleston this past February and knew only one
person in town, my best friend. However, she is on call a lot, has a
serious boyfriend and her own group of local friends. I was very lonely and
wanted someone to go explore with, without having to bug my best
friend all the time. I searched online for social groups, but the
ones I found interesting either had no upcoming events, were composed of
members in their 50s-70s, or were co-ed. I was looking for an
all-girls group around my age range that was very active. Since it
did not exist, I decided to create one. In forming this group I’ve
found my true passions – organizing events, being a leader in the
community, and exploring Charleston with a truly amazing group of women.

CD:? What are the challenges your members face and how will this group help to reduce some of the pressures?

JS: 99% of us are not from Charleston, so we didn’t have any
friends when we moved here. It Girls is a place that fosters close
friendships. We also don’t know what venues are good (restaurants, hair
stylists, etc.) and need advice on where to go. Whenever we need advice on
local venues or anything Charleston related, we post in our Facebook group
and several people always respond with their feedback and
recommendations.? Some of us are finding it hard to adjust to life in a new city, away
from family, with a different culture and everyone else in the group
understands each other and supports each other. We are planning a
Friendsgiving dinner for those who cannot travel to their families
for the holiday.? Over half of us are single and are having a hard time dating in this
town. It Girls provides a safe space where no one needs to care how
they look or worry about getting hit on, because every night is Girls
Night. We can vent to each other about dating, get advice, and feel
like we don’t need a significant other because we have such a
great friend group.? A lot of us struggle with eating healthy and exercising. We created
a separate Facebook group for those interested where we hold each
other accountable for our goals and motivate each other. It is a personal
development group to improve physical health, self-esteem,
happiness, and well being.

CD:? What type of community engagement do you plan in the next year?

JS: We plan on organizing at least one large charity
event per year. Our first charity event is October 23rd at 5Church and it
is a date auction and silent auction benefitting the Children’s Tumor
Foundation. My childhood best friend, Alison Garrard, came to me
with the idea and we have enjoyed planning every detail of the
event and knowing we are making a difference in our community. We would
like to make this a yearly event. I also host a monthly book club, a
monthly murder mystery dinner, a monthly canvas painting night,
weekly wine nights, and sporadic dinners, movies, beach trips, girl’s night
out, exercise and dance classes, weekend getaways, Sunday brunches,
local festivals, spa parties, arts and crafts nights, and anything
else members suggest.

CD:? Does this group have a professional networking element, social or both??

JS: The primary focus of our group is the social element. However,
professional networking naturally occurs as well. Members will post
on our Facebook group looking for recommendations for services, etc.
and if a member is in that business, she will comment, or if
a member knows another member in that service, she will recommend that
member. For example, a member was looking for a professional
photographer and we found three within our group. The purpose of the
group is to develop deeper connections than professional contacts,
however, professional contacts are naturally made as people get to
know each other and talk about what they do.

CD: What makes the It Girls of Charleston different from other
female based networking groups?

JS: It Girls fosters close, lasting friendships, not just activity
partners. We are a close-knit group – several smaller groups have
formed based on who clicks with who, of course – but overall the
people who come regularly are good friends with each other. We call
each other when we’ve had a bad day to vent over a glass of wine.
We chipped in to send a member Edible Arrangements when her father
died, and sent another member a spa day when she was stressing about her
sister being diagnosed with cancer. Most meetups and other social
groups (at least in my experience) do not focus on fostering
meaningful friendships, they simply focus on getting people together
to do activities with each other.? We are a lot more active than other groups. We do things multiple
times per week. Not every member comes to every event, of course,
but they have so many options.? I have been told by many members how amazed they are that our group
is not caddy, we don’t gossip behind each other’s backs, and we
are truly supportive of each other. We build each other up instead
of tear each other down. Despite how difficult it is at the beginning
to put ourselves out there with new people, we are all committed to
making genuine and deep connections. We all strongly believe that
having a close-knit group of girlfriends is essential to every
woman’s happiness.


“I’ve worked in predominately female environments all my life.? I’ve never experienced a group atmosphere of women who are so kind, generous, fun and genuine as I have in this group.? Everyone has your back; everyone is so open and you can tell that there is a genuine vibe of wanting to be there for each other.” – Rachel M.

“What you have built is amazing and inspiring.? I look at all these girls who have come together every day and know that you have made a place for all of them to become friends and be themselves.” – Alison G.

“Been feeling down lately wondering if I made the right decision moving far from home, but seeing all the different activities coming up is helping.” – Jami M.


From Vision to Reality

With an idea, a passion and a community that thrives on outreach and
relationships, Jamie Sprenger created a place where women in
Charleston can share thoughts, ideas, emotions or just feel a sense
of belonging.? It is that level of passion and innovativeness that has given birth
to the It Girls of Charleston. We expect great thinks from these


Business Networking in Charleston – Creating Lasting Partnerships

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Good day to the wonderful community of Charleston. We would like to begin by thanking each and every one of you for making Charleston, SC an amazing place to live and work.? Being such a warm and engaged community is a reward in and of itself. Our channel of communities will continue to? grow based on the knowledge sharing, partnerships and resource exchange.? As we grow, networking and partnership will be even more critical.

We see local and large businesses working together every day and we want that culture to continue to thrive.

We thought we would provide you with some resource links to bookmark and keep you informed on the evolution of the Lowcountry.? They may also open up some doors of possibility:

These are excellent resources to help you grow and expand your professional network in Charleston. We hope you take some time and find value on these links.