Categorized | Career

Schmooze or Lose

Posted on 27 August 2008

Whether you’re searching for your first real job or looking to leave your current position, it helps to have friends in high places (or in any places for that matter). Although it may sometimes feel like your career development is all up to you, you’d be surprised at how many people are actually willing to help. Never underestimate the power of your personal network. The best jobs are never listed in the paper, and even if you’re not actively looking, it’s always valuable to keep your ear to the ground. Following are some tips to cultivate your contacts:

  • It sounds obvious, but don’t overlook your family and friends. They have a vested interest in seeing you succeed and will be happy to help you tap into their network.
  • Join the alumni club and contact alumni group representatives in the geographic areas where you’d like to work, as well as alums working in your field of interest.
  • Review your college career center’s mailing list and recruiters’ business cards to identify contacts in organizations of interest. Most career centers remain at your disposal long after you’ve graduated.
  • Read the newspapers of cities you’d like to work in and identify contacts from local articles, especially in the business and community sections.
  • Consider sending a mailing if you have a large number of potential family contacts. Survey them for information, leads and contacts, and include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
  • Get involved in community activities that you enjoy and to which you are committed. At the same time that you are helping others, you may also meet involved professionals with commitments similar to your own.
  • Join professional associations related to your field of interest. Many national organizations have local or regional groups and offer benefits including field or industry information, meetings and educational seminars, mentorship programs and job listings.
  • Attend regional or national conferences sponsored by a professional association you have joined. This in an invaluable way to learn about the field while connecting with professionals and potential employers.
  • Conduct informational interviews with people working in your field of interest. If you don’t have any contacts, call local organizations in your field, introduce yourself, and request an informational meeting of 20-30 minutes with mid- to upper-level professionals in your department of interest. In the words of eGrad’s marketing guru Kathryn Carroll: “You’ll be surprised at how many people are prepared to spend half an hour giving you an insider’s perspective, many of whom can also refer to you others they know in the industry who may have job openings.”

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