Highly Effective Networking: Cindy Witteman On 5 Strategies for Successful Networking, Both Online and Offline

An Interview With Athalia Monae

Athalia Monae
Authority Magazine

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Be Real: Authenticity in Sharing Struggles

- On Twitter, I decided to be candid about my business challenges. This vulnerability resonated with others facing similar issues, creating a genuine connection. People appreciated the honesty, leading to a significant increase in meaningful conversations and partnerships.

The art of networking is pivotal in today’s interconnected world. Establishing meaningful connections can accelerate career growth, foster collaborations, and create opportunities that might otherwise remain hidden. Yet, the dynamics of networking are intricate, often requiring a nuanced blend of authenticity, strategy, and adaptability. And with the digital revolution, networking has transcended beyond face-to-face interactions to virtual platforms, expanding its scope and complexity. In this series, we would like to discuss the art and science behind effective networking. We are talking to seasoned professionals, career coaches, networking experts, and thought leaders who’ve mastered both traditional and online networking techniques. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Cindy Witteman.

Residing in San Antonio, Texas, Cindy Witteman is a versatile individual, serving as a Business Owner, 3x International Best-Selling Author, and Host of the “Little Give” TV Show. Acknowledged with the 2023 Trailblazer Award, she also hosts the “Is Manifesting Bullshit Podcast,” embodies roles as an Entrepreneur, Life, and Confidence Coach, and engages as a Speaker. Alongside these pursuits, Cindy indulges in beekeeping and holds the position of Founder/CEO of Driving Single Parents Inc., a nonprofit she established in 2017.

Transitioning from a single parent to a proud stepmom in a blended family with six kids, one grandson, and two granddaughters, Cindy’s life is a harmonious blend of travel, family time, and a mission to inspire positivity. Driven by a passion for giving back, she founded Driving Single Parents Inc., a 501(c)3 Non-Profit, approaching its seventh-year milestone. Through the unwavering dedication of the team, this organization has furnished reliable vehicles to numerous single-parent families without cost, empowering them to surmount challenges and turn their struggles into tales of triumph.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about networking, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Certainly, I faced financial instability during my upbringing, raised by a single mom. Basic necessities were often a challenge, including the lack of transportation. Later in life, I found myself in a domestic violence situation, leading me to escape and become a single parent. Upon improving my circumstances, I felt a deep desire to give back and inspire others not to let their past define them. I wanted to show them that they have the ability to pursue their passions regardless of their background.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Witnessing lives transform right before my eyes has been a true game-changer for me. Understanding that I hold the power to create a more substantial impact through a series of small decisions each day is incredibly motivating. A poignant example occurred in July 2023 when the full circle moment unfolded. In 2020, the nonprofit I established, Driving Single Parents, gifted a vehicle to La-Tieka, a single mom who was both working and enrolled in college. Fast forward to 2023, she had improved her financial situation and generously donated the vehicle we provided her with back to another single parent in need. These moments, like the full circle with La-Tieka, reinforce that my “Little Idea” is indeed changing lives and leaving a meaningful impact.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three character traits that have been instrumental to my success are determination, resilience, and the willingness to pivot when something isn’t working.

1. Determination:There was a time in the early stages of my business when challenges seemed insurmountable. Financial struggles and the complexities of entrepreneurship could have easily deterred me. However, my determination to make a positive impact and achieve my goals kept me going. I persevered through tough times, ensuring that every setback fueled my commitment to success.

2. Resilience: Success is often accompanied by setbacks. In one instance, a major project I had invested significant time and resources in didn’t yield the expected results. Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, I embraced resilience. I learned valuable lessons, adjusted my approach, and used the experience to fortify my business strategies. Resilience allowed me to bounce back stronger.

3. Willingness to Pivot: Flexibility in business is crucial. I encountered a situation where a particular service I was offering didn’t resonate as expected in the market. Instead of persisting in a failing strategy, I recognized the need to pivot. Adapting quickly to changing circumstances, I redirected my focus to areas with greater potential. This willingness to pivot has been pivotal in ensuring my business stays relevant and dynamic.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. How exactly do you define “Networking?” Is it just about meeting new people?

Networking, in my perspective, goes beyond mere introductions to new people. It’s a deliberate and strategic approach to connect with those who share common interests or goals, offering meaningful insights and support. Building relationships and creating a network involves fostering genuine connections and establishing a community of like-minded individuals. It’s not just about the number of connections but the depth of relationships formed, fostering collaboration, knowledge exchange, and professional development.

In today’s digital age, how important is face-to-face networking, and how do you balance it with online networking?

In today’s digital world, face-to-face networking is still crucial for genuine connections, while online networking adds efficiency and reach. Balancing both approaches ensures a well-rounded and impactful network.

How do you maintain and nurture professional relationships over time, both in person and online, to ensure they remain fruitful and mutually beneficial?

Consistent communication and genuine interest are key to maintaining fruitful professional relationships, whether in person or online.

How important is personal branding when it comes to successful networking, and how can individuals develop and maintain a strong personal brand both online and in person?

Developing a strong personal brand is vital for successful networking. Online, ensure a polished profile, share relevant content, and maintain consistency. In person, craft a compelling elevator pitch, listen actively, and find ways to offer value. Consistency and adaptability are key, ensuring your brand aligns seamlessly across online and face-to-face interactions. By actively managing your personal brand, you enhance visibility and create lasting positive impressions, strengthening your networking efforts.

What is your advice for young professionals who are just starting to build their network? How can they effectively reach out to and connect with experienced leaders in their field?

For young professionals starting to build their network, my advice is to be genuine, proactive, and respectful. Find leaders in your field, engage with their work, and reach out with personalized messages expressing your admiration. Actively seek opportunities for informational interviews or mentorship. Remember, building relationships takes time, so focus on being authentic and creating mutually beneficial connections.

Do you prioritize quality or quantity of connections? How do you determine when to invest more time in a particular relationship?

Quality in connections means establishing meaningful relationships built on shared values and mutual understanding. It involves creating bonds that go beyond mere transactions. For instance, if I find someone who shares similar professional values or personal interests, I might invest more time in building that connection.

Determining when to invest more time in a particular relationship is often based on the potential for collaboration and the depth of engagement. If there’s a shared vision or a possibility of impactful collaboration, dedicating additional time becomes valuable. It’s about recognizing connections that have the potential to grow and contribute significantly to both parties involved.

What are your “5 Strategies for Successful Networking, Both Online and Offline”?

1. Follow Up Smartly: Turning Virtual Connections into Collaborations

- After participating in a virtual summit, I took the initiative to send personal follow-up emails to several speakers and attendees. This thoughtful gesture transformed initial connections into successful collaborations. By demonstrating genuine interest and following up smartly, I cultivated relationships that extended beyond the event.

2. Stay Visible Online: LinkedIn as a Networking Tool

- Consistent activity on LinkedIn, including regular posts and interactions, elevated my visibility in professional circles. Being an active presence on the platform positioned me as a go-to person in my industry. This increased visibility not only attracted new connections but also enhanced the depth of existing professional relationships.

3. Give Back in Partnerships: Collaborating for a Cause

- Partnering with other professionals for charity work not only contributed to the community but also forged strong professional bonds. Engaging in meaningful projects together created a sense of shared purpose and values, strengthening the relationships. Giving back became a powerful way to build lasting connections in the professional realm.

4. Mix Online and Offline Networking: Diversifying Connection Channels

- While attending conferences provided valuable face-to-face interactions, engaging in online forums and communities broadened my network reach. Balancing both online and offline networking strategies allowed me to connect with a diverse range of professionals, expanding my opportunities and perspectives.

5. Be Real: Authenticity in Sharing Struggles

- On Twitter, I decided to be candid about my business challenges. This vulnerability resonated with others facing similar issues, creating a genuine connection. People appreciated the honesty, leading to a significant increase in meaningful conversations and partnerships.

What role does diversity and inclusion play in your networking approach? How do you ensure that your network is inclusive and represents a broad range of perspectives and backgrounds?

I prioritize diversity in my network by actively connecting with people from various backgrounds and industries. This commitment ensures that my network is inclusive and reflects a diverse mix of voices and ideas.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I aim to expand the nonprofit I established in 2017. Many organizations address immediate needs, but I believe in providing sustainable solutions. Offering reliable family vehicles goes beyond short-term assistance, enabling single parents to secure better job opportunities, pursue education, and manage essential tasks for their families in the long run.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can find me on all major platforms under Cindy Witteman or use my link tree to find out more:

https://linktr.ee/cindy.witteman

www.DrivingSingleParents.org

CFViews.com

LittleGive.com

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Athalia Monae is a product creator, published author, entrepreneur, advocate for Feed Our Starving Children, contributing writer for Entrepreneur Media, and founder of Pouches By Alahta.

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Athalia Monae
Authority Magazine

Product creator, author, entrepreneur, Feed Our Starving Children advocate, Writer for Entrepreneur Media, & founder of Pouches By Alahta.