Hank Blank’s Story About Laguna Niguel Connectors.

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I am one of the Founders of Laguna Niguel Connectors.  I remember the original touch point as if was today but I could be all wrong.  It was in the summer of 2008.  Somebody introduced me to Randy Miller and we had a Starbucks in my hood called Laguna Niguel.  Population 62,979.  Average household income of $98,000.

We were about a year into the New Normal but nobody recognized it yet on a grand scale.  I had but I live very close to the streets as a consultant who has to create a job each and every day.   The melt down began in 2007 but many people were still embracing the lie that things were OK.

Randy and I innocently and briefly talked about building a local networking group of like minded people.  We had another planning meeting at the same Starbucks with Dipak Shan and Gregory Gaines. Our skin colors, nationalities and backgrounds were all very different but our hearts beat the same way, We talked about some very simple principles.  About paying it forward.  There was no great grand vision because nobody knew the misery that was coming.  Somebody created a Linkedin page in August 2008.  We soon had our first meeting and 23 people came to the same Starbucks.  In September of 2008 the bank too big to fail failed and the world quickly melted.

Almost three million people lost their jobs that year.  That’s the entire population of Orange County.  Some were in in Laguna Niguel.  Their average income was no longer $98,000.  Then the meetings got bigger and bigger.  Very quickly many people started to come to Laguna Niguel Connectors because there weren’t that many places to go for so many people in transition. When over a 100 people were gathering outside that Starbucks the Baristas asked me what’s going on here?  It is a cult I joked or a local Amway meeting.  They laughed and moved on.

Today Laguna Niguel Connectors has over 3400 members.  We have satellite chapters that people organized.  We have volunteers organizing events. Many angels came out over the years.  We have name tags.  We now meet twice a month. I like the meeting at Salt Creek Winery the best.

One of the lessons I have learned is the possibility of serendipity and innocence.  What if Randy or I had decided not to meet at that Starbucks? What is Dipak or Gregory wouldn’t have attended the follow up?  Would there have been a Laguna Niguel Connectors?  Maybe yes and maybe no.  Some group would have been created because the three million people in transition from 2008 and more from the following years needed some place to go.

One lucky serendipity that  made Laguna Niguel Connectors successful was that outside that Starbucks there was a large area for people to meet and congregate.  What also worked was the fire hose of social media and the growth of Linked  aligned with the millions of people losing their jobs in the coming years. Those people quickly learned  about the power of creating their own personal brand on the Internet.

What also worked was the power of the people that came.  The majority didn’t have a job but they had great value and they found a  place to meet and get support and offer their skills. Laguna Niguel Connectors became  place to learn how to navigate the New Normal.  The meetings thankfully are smaller, the attitude of people to pay it forward the same.

That Starbucks is closing soon I have been told. I hope it is a sign of things to come.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

You can watch a video by Hank on Networking Tips for Young People.

You can also read some other blogs that may be able to help you.

Why I Network With People in Transition.

How to Stay Strong When the Search is Long.

How to Create a Job.

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Networking In My Neighborhood.

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I like my neighborhood.  I live in Laguna Niguel.  It is close to the beach and close to the stars.  Population of 63, 940 and  the median household income is $98,072.  Laguna Niguel is in Orange County which a lot of people think is white bread and very John Wayne. But perceptions can be thin veneers in our sound bite world.

Over 30% of Orange County is foreign born including me.  I was born in Toronto. Laguna Niguel has slightly more foreign born people than California but nobody would know that.

Many people think California is a place where people don’t know each other.  I live in a village of three million and it feels like a village because I have an attitude of engagement.  I know Derrick the bag person at Vons, I know Nick who owns the UPS Store in the same strip mall.  I know most of my Starbucks Baristas.  I have a garbage boy who takes out my trash.  I know that my UPS driver likes to play guitar. I know that my pharmacy assistant at CVS is from Egypt.  I listen to her worry and fell her pain.  I don’t care if it leads to business.  I want to live my life this way talking to people and not just to myself.

In 2008 I sat down at a Starbucks in the same strip mall with Randy Miller.  At that time I had met him a couple of times.  He also lived in Laguna Niguel.  He was the former CIO of a major technology company in OC and was in transition.  As a consultant I constantly live in transition.  I said I know a couple of people in Laguna Niguel and he said the same.  He introduced me to Gregory Gaines and Dipak Shah and we started Laguna Niguel Connectors in August 2008.  We had our first meeting outside the same Starbucks and had 23 people attend.  Within a month or two we had over 100 people at our monthly meetings.  Why?  Because the world melted in the fall of that year and many people in Laguna Niguel and Orange County were no longer making the average income of $98,000.  They were jettisoned into the world of transition.  Now Laguna Niguel Connectors has over 3400 members.  Just from four guys sitting around at a Starbucks.  One a Caucasian, one African American, one a person originally from India, and me a token Canadian.

I like Canadians.  Somebody told me that there are 800,000 Canadians in Southern CA. I believe it.  Many of us don’t like the cold.  There are 750,000 Persians in Southern CA I have been told.  I think the weather feels like home.  I don’t think some can go home. I met a fellow Canadian called Rob Kelle. We talked about starting a Canadians in OC Group.  We invited a few fellow Canadians to help.  Now Canadians in OC has over 340 people in the group and we have Canadian Thanksgiving events.  Over 13% of California’s trade is with Canada. Really?  Who would have known?

You see in the end your neighborhood isn’t what other people tell you it is.  Your neighborhood is what you create and how you live your life. Want to create one of your own?

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch his video on the Power of Networking.

You may also enjoy these articles.

Has Your Job Search Passed It’s Expiry Date?

Job Hunting Tips.

The New Employer Employee Dance.

The Opposite of Networking Is Not Working.

How to Create a Job.