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.

Personal Branding

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I’ve been working really hard to guide this space towards matching my “real life”. Simultaneously, I’m rebranding my work life to be a reflection of real life as well. I spend way too many hours of my day at work to spend them being a fake version of me. I’ve got to admit, the adjustment has been a rather grueling process. Not so much on the online front but more IRL.

See, I know who I am here. I’m the Prepford Wife and I have been for a very long time. I’ve also been the Prepford Wife in the real world for just as long; it’s how this blog got its name after all. My husband and I have known each other since our third day of college and you would be hard pressed to find someone who knew us then and didn’t see us as a duo. We do a really good job of presenting a united front with clear cut goals and one view of the world. But the truth of the matter is that in doing that, I am forever part of a whole instead of a single individual. This left me with a gap in how to define myself during the work day when Marcus isn’t there.

Being apart of a pair also left me with this thought that I am forgettable when alone. I constantly reintroduce myself to people I met not long ago, assuming that they forgot my name. What I found out is that while that is courteous and helpful, I’ve sold myself short and assumed that my personal brand wasn’t strong enough to do the work of making me memorable. For someone who prides them self on self awareness, this process has been a headache and I can’t believe I let it go on for so long.

So lately I’ve been doing the work. Doing the hard emotional labor of really finding out who I am and how I want to present myself to world. I always see posts about personal branding and those post are talking strictly about online/social media presence. But this is not just that. I’m a 9-5er hoping to solidify my brand not just here but in my work life.  Hopefully by doing it here, in a safe and transparent space, it frees you to do the work as well. And best of all, it’s never too early or too late for this exercise.

I started with three jumping off points based on conversations I’ve had about branding and worked to fit them authentically to me.

1) Start with what you’re known for and what you’d like to be known for

Known for:

The girl with the nice shoes: Shoes break down barriers. I use to be in sales and it was one of the easiest ways to get people to talk to me. They would look down at my feet and gasp and it would break the ice to start a conversation. As an introvert, this is important to me because shoes are easy. They’re a thing that people like about me and makes people want to talk and relate.

Smile when I talk I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I smile when I talk. Its a way of disarming people and encouraging them to be on my side. Human beings mirror each other, its part of why smiling is infectious. Aside from that, smiling is apart of my personal brand which is warm. Every single person who leaves a conversation with me should feel like it was worth their time and it was like a conversational hug (not a literal one, respect for personal boundaries is also apart of my brand). I even apply this to email where I write almost exactly how I speak. Obviously not every single email I send, especially not to higher ups or strangers. But if you email me here, you can bet on getting the same kind of warmth that you’d get from me in person.

Want to be known for:

Authenticity I tend to be someone who marches to the beat of my own drum. I wear what I want, I say what I mean (within reason) and I yam, who I yam. Part of it is that, I can’t maintain lies for long. I start to trip up and forget the lie but then another part of it is a sense of integrity. Whether you meet me in the grocery store, work, on the blog, I never want you to feel like you are interfacing with a whole new person. Now do I have boundaries? Absolutely. You will never know me as well as my husband and sisters but may you never feel like you are dealing with a whole new person. And I want that to be clear to people.

Get it done We had this feedback fest at work and a friend who knows me from outside of work gave me the feedback that “there will never be a deadline that you won’t meet”. If you give me a task, a date, a deadline. I got you. I am old reliable. You can trust me to do the things. I want that to be something that is visible to others. When you set me to something, I will make sure it gets done, no matter how big or small.

2) What do you offer that is a niche no one else seems to fill

Black Prep In this space, I offer who I am and that is a black prepster. There are a few black prepsters but none that I’ve seen who are go-tos for consistent preppy lifestyle content. (Should you know some, point me in their direction).

Complex problem solver I have the ability to see a problem and solve it without even knowing it. You can spot this in yourself if you find yourself saying “Why haven’t we been doing it X way? Well if we just do Y”. I see a big problem and instantly start thinking of a response to it even if I don’t voice it aloud.

3) What’s your brand statement based on those things?

Formula: My name is X and I do Y by Z

Work: My name is Victoria and I assist teams by solving complex problems through quiet observation and rational yet creative reactions.

Blog: My name is Victoria. I’m the Prepfordwife and I run a preppy lifestyle blog devoted to sharing the consistent and authentic viewpoint of an African American prepster.

So there you have it. Simple branding statements that I will use as my guiding light both here and in my work environment. Like a life thesis statement of sorts. Tell me, do you have a brand statement for yourself and if so, what does it look like? And then what have I overlooked?

XO Prepford Wife

 

Cha-cha-cha-changes

For some reason, this song was ubiquitous in my high school (and probably others). But its that time again. There is a lot and yet very little going on in my life. I graduated with my Master’s in Public Health on Friday, May 9th. All this means is that no one has to hear me complain about my thesis anymore. However, if you happen to be looking for a run down of all the factors that play into if a woman in North Carolina or Tanzania will use a condom or get tested for HIV, I’m your woman thanks to it. Wink.

Anyway, I wore this floral navy and white Isaac Mizrahi dress to graduation that took serious stress and starvation to fit into. Truthfully it has been in the “must go on ebay” bag for months and I took it out to list it and the sisters had me try it on. It’s two sizes smaller than I usually wear so I guess my claims of “I’m not losing weight” are, in fact, a lie. Either way, it only made its way out from beneath the stifling graduation robe for dinner with Almost-Husband and photos with my beautiful once-classmates.

Seriously, are these not the cutest classmates ever? And shout to them and Maegan (not pictured) for hipping me to the HDR feature on the iPhone. Other people always end up reminding me that I am so #teamflipphone.

 

Almost Husband came to graduation and took me out for an awesome dinner consisting of just the two of us at Ruth’s Chris, complete with creme brulee.

 

And he brought the sisters. I tend to be pretty low key. So nothing but the bare necessities for the day. Skinny girl dress? Check. Favorite peoples? Check. Awesome dessert? Check. All around, the day couldn’t have been better.

A Semester in the Life

It has been a while, aye? My blog, which is currently under construction, has gotten a slight face lift and a new name. I wanted my internet presence to be cohesive so I changed the name of the blog from Southern Ethnic to PrepFord Wife, my tumblr name, especially because over the years my blog has moved from the topic of me being a northern implant. Cute pun though right? Thanks, to the almost-hubby for coming up with it.

Anyway, I took a semester long break from social media (facebook/twitter/instagram/tumblr/blogger) for spiritual reasons which I will explain at a later date. For now though, here is my life over the last semester in photographs. I will more than likely do a post per day about each photo.

August

 

 

Sure, I got a new planner but I also began the last year of my master’s and got a new job on retail. It’s where all my money went anyway. Oh and that watch, my new found dedication to time management.
I also started a new role as an intern at the local Health Department. I have interned in a health department before but this time, I had a different focus.
I gained my other sister. This (far left) is my beautiful sister in law to be and she too is a Campbell student now! The one in the middle is my biological sister who was became a CU student in 2011. Surprise, Campbell family.
September
I started working out faithfully. I am not necessarily on a mission to lose weight but to be a healthier version of myself. I don’t have a regime, I do the one above on occasion. I am just moving towards a healthier lifestyle.
Sirius Black grew. Darn near overnight. Look at that guy. He’s huge. Ain’t he a stinker though? Precious baby.
October
The lumberjack and I spent our anniversary at a possible wedding venue. We were suppose to get married privately this October but decided against it in favor of an actual wedding. Surprise! So next October, me and the boo are gonna get hitched. I’m a perfectionist so I need that time to plan. Don’t judge me. Stay tuned for updates about this shindig.
November
Ze Shanster had a birthday. Happy Birthday Shanster.
Gasp. All of the Ellis-Ford progeny, at least the ones who matter, are in the same place at once. Had to catch that one on camera. Far right, the one who you probably don’t recognize from other post, is the Ellis brother. He is a marine and is usually stationed away from us.
Janelle Monae concert! ‘Nuff said.
We had our engagement shoot. Obviously this handsome couple is not us but we are going to publish an entirely separate post with our photos. I promise; they are worth the wait.
December
December marks the end of the semester and the beginning of winter break which means our little lovelies are traveling back to their actual parents and we are now empty-nesters for a little while. I’m super gonna miss the little buggers.
Pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain. This picture is actually a peak at the inside of our little house. I have slowly but surely been pimping it out. Again, another post for another day.
Stay tuned, I fully intend to spend the next two weeks or so catching you up on my/our lives and the semester.