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Meet and Greet

We used to be jealous of the corporate types when it came to networking-but now it's the 21st century, now we have technology, and now home offices are coming together.

When Deb Haggerty ditched corporate America in 1985 to launch her own business, she didn't know she'd long for the "team" she left behind. All it took was one week for the former career corporate citizen to realize she needed people around.

"I missed the camaraderie, the give and take, the jokes and compliments that go on in an office full of people," she says. "I realized I needed to get into some networking groups to maintain my sanity and my self-esteem."

Today, Haggerty, president of Positive Connections, a communications skills and recruiting enhancement company, no longer longs for the buzz of the corporate hive. She's too busy with her own network of colleagues in professional and peer groups, as well as frequent interaction with clients.

Weekly, she meets with the local Orlando Chamber of Commerce. Virtually, she's involved with three Internet e-mail groups: SuperGals, a clutch of 10 businesswomen formed in July 1999 to chat online; PowerPals, a group of 15 women who've gathered online since October 1999 to discuss business issues; and CLASS Chats, a Tuesday online chat group that supports authors and speakers in the Christian market.

"Phone and e-mail [contact] take the place of the face-to-face interaction I used to crave," she says. "When I need face-to-face, I go to a networking event."

Working from home in the e-community has drawn many former corporate professionals like Haggerty out of the city and into the suburbs. The transition from close contact with fellow workers to the solitude, even isolation, of the home office can be dispiriting to new and experienced at-home workers alike.

Often, setting up networking groups or online e-mail or chat groups accomplishes multiple tasks. Not only does the effort often result in decreased feelings of isolation-it helps entrepreneurs rebuild bridges lost when they left the corporate environment, as well as bolster their existing skill sets and knowledge bases with those of their peers, says Jim Rohrbach, a speaker, trainer, skills coach and author.

"To be successful," says Rohrbach, "you need to align yourself with organizations where there's a natural synergy."

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