Giving Back & Getting More: Office Hours

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Offering free 15-20 minute office hours can demonstrate your expertise, learn what questions your possible clients have, and help you to hone your skill set.

In the summer of 2012, I lost my job rather abruptly. I knew it was coming, but I didn't think it would happen RIGHT THEN, ON THAT DAY.

Losing a job, whatever the circumstances are, can be excruciating for many reasons. For me, in this instance it was debilitating. It crushed me. I had been on this whirlwind ride for two years in the tech industry, and it never felt quite right. A lot of this had to do with systemic issues within the tech industry for sure -- but it also had to do with my attitude and not having enough faith that I belonged.

I believe a large part of growing up and getting older (the two don't necessarily go hand in hand BTW) is constantly working on yourself, and continuing to develop one's self-esteem. At least that has been my experience.

After I lost my job, I was gutted and very unsure of myself all of a sudden. Like boom. I woke up and just felt so unsure. It was an awful feeling. But luckily, I was surrounded by lots of very supportive and nuturing people -- the Bay Area is magic like that -- and had many people encouraging me to start my own business.

During this time I had started to spend time with my friend Rena Tom. One day after a harrowing day at work, where it became very apparent to me my days were numebered, I met up with Rena. She was just about to launch Makeshift Society in San Francisco, and was really urging me to offer workshops there. Rena had also been offering free office hours herself -- which I had signed up for. This concept really appealed to me; offering knowledge to those who need it for free for a brief amount of time. A sort of à la carte networking. I liked that. But it never occurred to me to offer my own.

Once Makeshift opened Rena encouraged many of the members to offer free office hours. I honestly would have never done it without Rena's encouragment. Looking back now I realize it was one of the best things I could have done for my state of mind at the time. It was such a great feeling to meet with other women (for whatever reason Makeshift skews to the female population) and offer my own experience around social media, blogging, and content creation. It made me really see that regardless of losing my job -- it just wasn't a good fit -- I did indeed belong in my industry and the tech world. It was just going to look different than I first thought (and big thank you to Rena for the encouragment!).

Here are a few of the important reasons and experiences I recieve through my own office hours, and why I continue to offer them*:

  • I get to give back to my community and offer help, resources, and perspective to a project or individual that maybe can't afford to hire someone for social media. Perhaps they're just getting going so they don't have the marketing cash to use. This fills me with a great feeling of camaraderie, and connection to help other like minded small businesses out.
  • It’s also given me fresh perspective on what people need within my business. I get to hear questions and concerns that help me refine my business and tailor my work.
  • It has also helped me discover new resources or uncover new research if an attendee has a new, and unexpected question.
  • Office hours also continually reinforce my self-esteem around my expertise. I constantly leave these twenty minute meetings with a super, warm fuzzie feeling of gratitude and a “hey I can do this” attitude.
  • On a more personal note, growing up my mom always networked with people. She was a single parent with very little means so it was imperative that she be as resourceful as she could. This rubbed off on me and made me see that it’s so important to help people out. Office hours allow me to do that, open up my time to network and connect with people I may not have the opportunity to meet otherwise.

I use the online site, Ohours, to publicize and schedule my office hours (introduced to me, by yep, Rena!). It's a pretty easy site, allowing you to choose your date, length, and much more. I can hold my office hours online via skype, on the phone, or in person. It makes it very easy, and seems pretty straightforward for those who sign up.

Holding monthly office hours, has been hands down, one of the best things I have done for my business. If you have a service that you can share your knowledge around, I really encourage you to offer your own free office hours.

Oh speaking of which, I've just added a handful of slots over the next few weeks -- come hang out with me!

*Some of this text originally appeared on Makeshift Society's blog, and this whole blog post appeared on my personal blog Plenty O'Toole

Image via Unsplash/Alejandro Escamilla