Guest Post from Gabrielle, Blogger for The Art of Applying
I’m fortunate to have learned a lot about the power of networking very early on in my career. When I graduated from college in 2006, I used the following steps to get my first job at Disney:
- Apply for 70-80 entry-level positions and get zero responses
- Get fed up, but really want to work for Disney, so turn down 5 other job offers (ahhh)
- Randomly get an alumni magazine in the mail featuring a woman who worked at Disney
- Email Dean of college to request contact information of said woman
- Cold-call said woman to ask for help
- Hear her say “Sure!” and about fall on the floor
- Have an informational interview via phone
- Follow up via email thanking her for her time
- Follow up via email again two weeks later saying, “Hey! I’m going to be in town, can I come see the office?” knowing full well you had no plans to be in town, but would sure as heck find a way to get there if she said yes. (She said yes.)
- Visit the office and meet her co-workers. Grab business cards and give out resumes.
- Email each contact every 2 weeks for 2 months asking about open jobs
- Annoy the Director of PR enough that he finally reaches out and says he has a 6-month contractor position that he doesn’t think you’re qualified for, but he’s pacifying you by sharing the information
- Respond and assert that you are superwoman, you can do this!
- Land an interview.
- Land the job. Cry. Laugh. Breathe.
I know I’m exhausted reading that 15-step process, even if it did get me to my ultimate goal, but the truth is that networking is often a better way to land a new position, even if it’s more of the long game approach than a one-step silver bullet. And although activating your network to help you in your job search may ultimately wind up comprising multiple steps, I’ve also learned over the years that there are simpler, more efficient ways to get started.
About three months ago, I decided to launch a job search of my own. I had been working as an entrepreneur and independent contractor with a portfolio career of anywhere from 5-7 part-time jobs for over a year, and it was burning me out. I was constantly scared about my finances, I’d convince myself that any of my contracts could disappear at a moment’s notice, and although I liked the work I was doing, I felt like it was a dead end. My desperation and anxiety was increasing with each passing week, and knowing that the average job search takes six months, I didn’t want to wait before taking action.
That said, I also wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do next. I had eight years of corporate marketing experience, but had recently shifted into the coaching world. It seemed like I could easily go back on a marketing path, parlay my experience into an HR role or continue developing as a coach. And although I perused job boards to appease myself, I wasn’t finding anything that inspired me. I knew I needed to widen my net and tap into the expertise of people I trusted that also knew me best.
I scoured my inbox to review contacts I had recently been in touch with – friends, family, former co-workers, former recruiters – and then did a quick scan of my 1,300+ LinkedIn contacts (ok, it wasn’t SO quick) to see if there was anyone else I had an existing relationship with that I’d want to reach out to.
I wound up developing a list of about 70 contacts, and in the span of 30 minutes I crafted the following email:
Subject Line: Happy New Year + A Favor to Ask
Hello friends and colleagues,
Some of you I speak to every day; others, it’s been a while. Either way, I hope that 2017 is off to a great start for you and yours.
As you may or may not know, I’ve spent the last 14 months working in a portfolio career after separating from Old Company — I launched my own career coaching business, have done contract career coaching with three organizations, teach as an Adjunct Professor at Good University and handle marketing for Local Company. It’s all been a fantastic learning experience, both in building a business from scratch and in taking the needed time to really explore what I want and need from a career.
After much contemplation, I’ve decided to launch a full-time job search, and this is where I’m hoping I might have your help and support.
- Would you be willing to share my resume within your professional or personal network? I’ve attached the latest version and would be ever so grateful if you’d pass it along to anyone you see fit, whether that be friends who have job openings, know of openings, run a recruiting team or something else entirely.
- Do you have any friends or colleagues I might benefit from connecting with for an informational interview about their job, role or company? I know jobs tend to sprout from relationships and networking, so I’m excited to expand my purview and speak to new people, even if there aren’t any immediate openings. You never know what advice, encouragement or resources could come from connecting with someone new.
- Are there any openings in your area or company that you think I might be qualified for? Of course, never any pressure here, but if you personally know of a job for which I might be a great fit, I’d love to learn more about it and potentially apply.
At this point I’m sure you’re thinking, “But wait, Gabby, what kinds of opportunities are you looking for?” I’m staying purposely vague because I want to remain open to a number of roles and areas. That said here’s a run-down of my ideals:
- I’m looking for a role in which I can use my strengths in writing, public speaking / presenting, strategy and critical thinking.
- I prefer to be a generalist (i.e. a high-level marketing strategist that touches many specialty areas) over a specialist (i.e. an email marketing expert).
- I thoroughly enjoy (and have received compliments on my skills in) managing people and would like to lead direct reports.
- I excel in roles in which there is a balance between individual contributor work and work completed in teams.
- I am highly inquisitive, accomplishment-driven and organized.
- My preference would be to find a role located in downtown Philadelphia or one in which the company allows for remote/flexible work. That said, I am open to relocation for the right role, but prefer not to live/work in New York City.
- Although my background and expertise is in marketing and communications, I am open to jobs that are out of the box — human resources, coaching, talent development, strategy…something else entirely! Sometimes the most interesting opportunities arise when you have an open mind.
If you’re still reading, THANK YOU, and if you’re still willing to help, thank you even more. As I embark on this journey, having the support of such a fantastic network of people is so critical.
Wishing you all the best!
My palms were definitely sweating, and it took some courage to hit send. Even though I knew and trusted these people, it was nerve-wracking to be vulnerable and reach out to a large group for help. I worried that people might be annoyed or might see me as asking for help without offering something in return. Of course, I sent it anyway, and I figured that if any of the above fears were true, that person probably wasn’t someone I wanted in my network anyway.
That day alone, 14 of my contacts replied. Although not all could help directly, some offered to forward my resume to recruiters in their company or keep their eyes peeled. Others offered feedback on my resume or threw out names of friends they thought I should contact. Within a few days, 11 additional people responded, and a handful texted or approached me in person. All in all, my email sparked 84 additional email conversations, followed by five networking conversations, three invites for catch-up coffees/lunches, and if I may be so honest, the opportunity to share this blog post with you today.
Not a single person responded with something nasty; no one asked me to remove them from my contacts or gave me side-eye when I saw them next. The worst that happened was as I expected, some people just didn’t respond. But all-in-all, I was applauded for my bravery and directness, so if anything, the effort may have benefitted my reputation, even among people who didn’t have something to offer me immediately.
Naturally, this was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to launching a successful networking campaign, but it was a quick, easy and painless way to start the process and make folks aware of the fact that I was looking.
How might you adapt this technique to help you in your job search? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below!