Networking for the Desperate
November 22, 2011 1:26 PM Subscribe
With very little to offer, how can I network more effectively?
posted by aintthattheway to Work & Money (10 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
A little background: I'm a 2010 college grad with only a little freelancing experience, a couple of internships, and half a year's work at a bookstore under my belt. I'm interested and have the most experience in writing and editorial work, with some basic administrative and research skills. My target industries are either publishing or nonprofits. (Would like to do journalism, too, but I'm too depressed by the chances at getting something there that I've shied away.)
I've been applying like crazy to different entry-level jobs, and have gotten a few interviews, but I fear I can no longer avoid the bear that is networking. I have networked moderately over the past year, mainly through friends or occasionally contacts of friends. But I think, since I recently quit my job to focus on applying full-time, it's time I go for broke.
My primary resource is my university's alumni networking database, which people opt into, implying that they want to network. When I try to contact people in my target industries, however, I get depressingly minimal results. Having been coached by career advisers from my school in the etiquette of networking, I feel okay about the style and approach I am using. I would guess that I haven't gotten responses because: (1) people are busy, (2) they don't know me personally and won't really be held accountable for ignoring my attempts to reach out, and (3) as a recent grad, I have very little to offer in return for help... just appreciation. Despite experience that I'm proud of, I feel a bit like a charity case.
How can I better make myself someone people are interested in helping? People with jobs, on the other side of the river -- what makes you want to help people that may be younger and less experienced in your specific industry? What sort of approaches appeal to you, and what annoys the hell out of you?
I'm already a bit awkward in a business-y social setting, given that I typically rely on self-deprecation and humor to attract people and feel automatically a little disingenuous with the song-and-dance of networking when the reality is that I pretty urgently need a job. I'm running out of preliminary questions to ask about industries that I now know a fair amount about.
I managed to have some success last week with a friend of one of my acquaintances, a woman who immediately agreed to meet with me for coffee, looked at my resume, and said she would help me make several introductions with other people she knows in nonprofit fields. It was so direct and helpful, I nearly cried with gratitude.
This was the result of an introduction from our mutual friend, but how can I get this kind of response more frequently? Should I completely give up on contacting people I don't know, even if they've opted into a networking system?