Networking When You Have No Network

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Let’s face it; the best way to get a job is by networking. According to a recent ABC report 80% of jobs are landed by networking. Which means that only 20% of jobs are filled by the countless online job applications you have been slaving away at day and night while you eat Ramen noodles that you have been crying into for the last three hours. No? Just me? Fine.

Continue to fill out the online job applications. I know that they are unbearable and I just said that chances are slim but hey, luck favors the prepared. But that can’t be all? Don’t worry it’s not.

People have been telling you to “just get out there and network” since college but what does that honestly even mean? And what are you to do when you discover what it means and realize you have no network or at least not a strong one that you are able to tap into for a job. If you have the privilege of having a strong network and finding a job in the company of a family friend, then congratulations. I am truly very happy for you and this post is not for you. This is for those who are scratching their heads and saying “I don’t know anyone who can give me a job” or for people saying “I want to change industries and have no idea where to even start”. Here are some steps that may help. While I am not the purveyor of all things networking and am a self recognized curmudgeon who doesn’t get out enough, hopefully some of these are a good jumping off point for a lot of you.

  1. Get a LinkedIn. I know, I know you see this advice everywhere. But honestly do it. It’s so much easier to get in the know and have people reach out to you when you already have a completed profile out there in the world. Let me just emphasize for you there. Completed profile. It can be painful to fill these things out to completion but I highly recommend in. In a world where head hunters now scour the internet for talent, it’s important to have a completed profile. Think of it this way, the more accurate information that is there, the more information they can use to find you. Make sure if you choose not to complete the profile or just haven’t gotten the motivation to finish it,  you tailor your headline and include key words in the portions of your profile that you do fill out. While you’re making all of these changes, make sure to turn off your activity broadcasting so that your feed isn’t getting a notification with every single move you make. “Prepfordwife just started a job with….” is a really embarrassing notification when you are in fact searching for a job.
  2. Reach out to a stranger. I mean a real stranger. If you don’t know someone who is hiring, you need to meet some who is hiring and I know that’s hard to do. Especially if you are afraid of inconveniencing people or fear backlash. The trick is to approach it with some semblance of tact and not just approach someone with your hand out. I approached nine people on, you guessed it, LinkedIn, when I was first hunting for a job fresh out of college and eight responded to my query and seven were actually helpful in pushing me forward in my job hunt. The formula I use when reaching out to some one is “Hello Ms. X. My name is Prepfordwife. I saw that you do_____/are looking for ___. I have this particular skill set that lines up with what you need and I would love to get in touch with you further by email or a brief phone call”. Make sure to add a bit of your own personality and only reach out to someone whose needs you can meet. Is someone looking for a graphic designer and you have just completed an amazing internship in graphic design? Awesome, reach out. Is someone looking for a graphic designer but you have absolutely no experience? Less awesome but not the end of the road. Take a day and find some campaigns on the internet. Recreate them with your own vision in mind. Now you at least have a bit of experience to talk to them about. When reaching out to a stranger, the key is to have something to say and not just “Help! I need a job”. Let them know what you can do for them is a much easier way to get your foot in the door.
  3. Find your tribe If there is someone who you know or know of who does what you do, reach out to them. I know it’s hard but I’ve found it’s honestly easier for me to do this with a stranger than it is for me to do this with a friend. I went to this conference and heard this woman speak who had exactly the position that is my end goal in life. I bucked up the courage and sent her an email saying I admire her and what she does and would love to literally be her. I asked if I could take her to lunch and just ask some questions about her life path and trajectory. She said yes and we keep in touch today, four years later. It’s really important to find your folks and then hold on to them. If there is a company in your area that you want to work for, move around their website or LinkedIn and find someone who does what you want to do and invite them for coffee.
  4. Cover letters are magic Cover letters are optional but not really. They are a fantastic opportunity to give someone a taste of who you are without needing to speak with them directly for an hour. Every job that you apply for or every person that you talk to about a job, be sure to have a cover letter ready to send them should the situation arise. Make sure your cover letters are tailored to the job that you are interested in. If you are applying for a law internship, refrain from talking about your retail job unless you are spinning the skills from your retail job in a way that is usable to the law firm. Most importantly, read, reread and reread your cover letter. Step away and reread again. If you have a hard time editing yourself, send it off to a friend who doesn’t mind at least spell checking for you. If the thought of that makes you as nervous as it made me, read it aloud to yourself. It’s much easier to catch mistakes that way. Make sure you are changing things like the name of the company in each letter and the recipients name.
  5. Phone a friend Whenever possible, let your circle know you are interested in a new position. This is particularly useful when you have friends who are in a field that you are (potentially) or even friends who had a similar major to yours in college. I scored my first grown up job through a friend who thought I would be a good fit. That friend often gets a finders fee and you get a job. Win-win. Extend this to people you don’t know just by being yourself, or if yourself is not friendly, being nice. Is there someone on Instagram who does what you want to do (not a blogger, do that work on your own), I mean someone in your field. Have you interacted with this person in a way that shows you are a normal human being who won’t stalk them if they offer you advice? Great. Reach out.
  6. Ask your librarian. I know its 2018 but librarians know everything. They are trained to know everything. If you are looking for help researching a job, go to your public library and ask a librarian.
  7. PROFESSORS! If you were/are in college, ask a professor who knows you well to hook you up with a student who has gone into a field you may be interested in. There is a professor who I was particularly close with in school who has zero problem sending students my way when they need a job. I’ve read so many resumes and edited so many cover letter, its prompted this post. And I do it all without complaints. I love to see the fresh faced little college grads win. If you are close with a particular teacher, professor, lecturer, lab instructor, authority figure, ask them if they may know someone who does *insert blank* here. It’s important that you pick someone who knows you well so they can vouch for your character. If your character has been a little flaky, step it up, my friend. There’s still time to get this thing right. If you are still in school, this is an excellent time to start building a network out of your high school English teacher if you’re in high school, you’re lab instructor if your in college and your once-professor if you’re a college grad.
  8. Twins Choose someone who looks like you. The old saying goes, you can’t be what you don’t see. If you are a woman and you are interested in X career and you see someone doing it? Hit them up. If you want to start a start up and you know it’s hard for women of color, find some who has done it before you and slide into their dms. Sometimes being genuine gets you a long way.
  9. Stay positive I know its hard in a world where rent, medical bills, student loans and everything else are piling up. But you are your most valuable networking tool so whatever it takes for you to mentally stay afloat is what you should do. Step away from the computer, have a snack, give yourself a pep talk and then get back to it. You got this I feel it.

One thought on “Networking When You Have No Network

  1. Lynn says:

    Great advice. I especially like #8.
    P.S. It was so nice to meet you today! You are just as refreshing in person as you are on your blog/instagram. Thank you for the conversation.
    – Lynn ❤️

    Like

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