Networking: From teachable moments to tap rooms

By Corey Poole

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I was excited to garner some wisdom and advice from a bevy of speakers at the Louisiana Young Professionals Conference, held in my hometown of Natchitoches on July 28. The conference was hosted by the Natchitoches Young Professionals and the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce with the support of many area sponsors.

The day began with keynote speaker Jay Toups of Lafayette, who spoke about the keys to becoming a high performer. Grit (courage and resolve; strength of character) can take you far in the workplace.

There were several breakout sessions to choose from that offered a variety of topics from business owners and community leaders.

  • Jet Ainsworth spoke about the difference a positive outlook can have on your life and career. His advice was to “get excited.”
  • Steve McAlister told participants how their personal mission statement can define their careers
  • Carley McCord talked about learning to push through rejection, forget the haters, and attain your goals.
  • Dr. Chris Maggio discussed the traits of successful people.
  • Tony Davis spoke on how education is the core of a community’s success.
  • Ed Walsh discussed the importance of networking.
  • Skyra Rideaux talked about becoming a superconductor by using the power of social capital to network and create opportunities for yourself.

The session I was most excited to attend was the one titled “Don’t Do What I Did” featuring Bayou Teche Brewing President Karlos Knott. I was biased to begin with. I bartended for several years and I consider myself a bit of a beer buff. Karlos talked about his experience as an Army Veteran (seeing the world and drinking beer) and how that led to him brewing beer in Louisiana.

After being deployed in West Germany for several years, Karlos wanted to brew beer that complimented Louisiana’s Cajun cuisine. Local independent breweries are fast becoming the rage throughout the country and Louisiana is quickly amassing a collection of its own. While the ingredients in beer are pretty standard, what sets these breweries apart is the quality and the unique flavors they offer. These craft beers are part of a growing industry called “beer tourism” and Karlos said Bayou Teche gets its fair share of international visitors as they travel throughout the state.

After soaking up all the information I heard at the conference, the one thing that stood out to me was the power of networking. I’ve always been a firm believer in networking and it’s worked for me on numerous occasions, opening doors for new opportunities to grow my skill set.

On a trip to Lafayette on July 29 with Maggie Harris, who also attended the Louisiana Young Professionals Conference, we realized how close the Bayou Teche Brewery was (18 miles away in Arnaudville). At the conference, Karlos had encouraged everyone in his sessions to stop by for a visit, so for Maggie and I it seemed we were fated to take a spontaneous side trip.

We walked up to an outdoor patio area filled with the sounds of an accordion and a Cajun-French serenade. We went into the taproom to say hello to Karlos. He took us on a quick tour of the brewery and we tried some great beers.

It was an interesting experience to attend a conference on Saturday and then network with one of the speakers on Sunday. It’s important to make these kinds of connections, engage with people you’ve met and take time to appreciate what they’re doing in their communities. You never know what’s around the corner, when opportunities may arise, or how you may be able to help people unless you get outside yourself and network.

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