Find Your Dream Job, Episode 150:
How to Build Your Network Strategically, with Sara Holtz
Airdate: August 1, 2018
Hi, this is Mac of Mac’s List. Find Your Dream Job is presented by Mac’s List, an online community where you can find free resources for your job search, plus online courses and books that help you advance your career. My latest book is called Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. It’s a reference guide for your career that covers all aspects of the job search, including expert advice in every chapter. You can get the first chapter for free by visiting macslist.org/anywhere.
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Leila O’Hara and Jessica Black, from the Mac’s List team.
This week we’re talking about how to build your network strategically.
We talk about the importance of networking a lot on this podcast. Most jobs get filled by word of mouth. And networking offers you the best way to uncover and land these hidden jobs that employers never advertise. Our guest expert this week is Sara Holtz. She says, to find the job you want, you need a strategy for how to build your network. Sara and I talk later in the show.
You’re about to graduate from college. Or maybe you’re ready to change jobs. But here’s your problem: you’re not certain what kind of job you want. Leila has a found a book that shows you how to set both job search and career goals. It offers a practical set of steps you can use to figure what you want to do next. She tells us more in a moment.
You lose your job because your company downsizes. It’s not your fault. But will hiring managers hold your unemployment against you? That’s our question of the week. It comes from listener Jenna Paulson here in Portland, Oregon. Jessica shares her advice shortly.
First, as always, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team; we’re here in the studio with Leila and Jessica.
Leila, you’re up first because every week you’re out there poking around the Internet looking for resources our listeners can use, whether it’s websites, books or tools. I think this week you found a book for us, didn’t you?
Yeah, that’s right. This week, I’ve got a really great book for job seekers everywhere and it’s called “The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success”, and it’s by Nicholas Lore. This book is for anyone that finds themselves needing more direction in determining their next career move. It breaks down the process of finding your next dream job into a really clear step-by-step guide, which I find really helpful because I’m kind of the to-do list, map-it-out, sticky note kind of person.
I think we have a lot of linear people around this table between the 3 of us.
I’m not super linear but I do love a good to-do list and I also think that breaking down the nebulous idea of a dream job into actionable steps is really helpful for anyone who feels lost, or confused, or just stuck, not know where to go next. I think that having things like this as a guidepost is really helpful. I really appreciate this.
Yeah, yeah, I think it will be really helpful for listeners and one method the book explores in detail is the Rockport Career Design Method, which I had never heard of before. It is divided into three main stages which are: investigate, decide & design. Phase one is investigating and gathering clues or insights about yourself which are broken down into three main areas:
→ One is who you are, which is: what are your talents, what’s your personality, what are your skills and passions?
→ The second component is why you work, which is: what gives you meaning and what are your personal/professional goals?
→ Then the third component it wants you to think about is where you work, which is: what work environment do you want to be in, what professional environment do you see yourself working in?
Then once you’ve identified those three components, you can move one to identifying what it calls your definite components. These are anything that are basically must-haves that you really need to have in your future career. They can be any statement that you want. These are a couple of examples:
→One is, “I will work remotely and move around daily and I will not be tied to an office or in sit in front of a computer all day.”
→Another is, “My work will allow me to travel and explore the world.”
Once you’ve mapped out and identified these “must-have components” or definite components, you can decide what careers meets your requirements. Maybe these must-haves point you to a career as a marine biologist or a paralegal but now you’ve designed the career you want based on what’s most important to you.
Yeah, I really like that because it’s like one of the resources that you gave a couple weeks ago, the one from the school?
Yeah, Rasmussen college, the roadmap.
Yeah, but I think this could be a really good extra step to help you define those things that you want, because maybe you know you need to work with animals but you don’t know what that looks like or what kind of job that looks like. Or you know that you want to work remotely but you don’t know what type of work. I think that’s really helpful to have those different types of prompts to be able to guide you to figure out what things you need to be thinking about to find what you’re looking for.
Definitely, yeah. I think it’s really important to think about the things that are important to you and essential to you because otherwise you don’t really have any starting point to go off of.
One quote from the book that really stuck with me is about the power of commitment. I’m going to read this quote, “No universal law says you have to struggle…you just have to be willing. You have to be more committed to having the kind of life you want than you are to the easier road of compromise. You have to be willing to drop the stops…sometimes when people commit to creating something new in their lives and live that commitment without excuses, their obstacles disappear.”
I just encourage all job seekers to seek out this book if you’re looking for a great resource on building your dream career and finding your path. That’s going to be really valuable for you.
Cool, thank you.
Terrific. Well thank you, Leila. If you’ve got a suggestion for her, please write her. We would love to share your idea on the show. Leila’s address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now let’s turn to you, our listeners Jessica, you brought the Mac’s List mailbag into the studio a short while ago.
It’s a hefty bag, that’s for sure. Like Santa Claus’ bag.
It gets bigger every week. You’ve plucked out a letter from the bag; whose question are you sharing this week?
Yeah, this week’s question is from Jenna Paulson, here in Portland. She says,
“I’ve heard that employers prefer hiring people who already have a job? Why? I lost my last job due to no fault of my own; the company just downsized. Why is being unemployed a mark against me?”
I understand where the sentiment comes from. I understand why it feels this way. It feels like when you’re unemployed you have these stacks up against you and that it seems harder to find a job. I can’t say definitively whether or not this is true; I think it may very well be true for some hiring managers. We’ve talked about this before, there is bias out there and people bring that into their hiring lives. We at Mac’s List are working hard to disseminate some of those things, to make it more clear how to combat that. I know that’s something that can go into things.
It is a factor. I feel for Jenna here because employers, candidly, they tend to have concerns about people who have been out of work and this can be through no fault of your own. I’ve certainly been there myself; I’ve talked on the show about two long periods of unemployment. As that stretches out, you find, and it’s not your imagination, that you’re getting fewer and fewer responses unless you’re taking steps to address why that gap is there and what you’re doing during that period.
Yeah, that’s what I was going to go into next, I’m glad that you jumped into that because I was going to mention here that I do feel that one reason that you may especially feel this way is because employers like to hire people who are actively working in their field. I use the word working loosely; to be engaged and involved in some kinds of commitments, extracurriculars, or volunteer opportunities. Any type of thing that shows that you are invested in that field. Whether or not you are being compensated or officially on a payroll isn’t what I’m emphasizing here. It’s the fact that you’re actively engaging and working in that field. Especially giving back. Like I mentioned, things that could be related to that are things like volunteering, internships; the underlying thing is demonstrating your passion and your abilities through a commitment to that work.
I like that, Jessica, because the reason an employer will know you’re out of work is because there’s a gap on your resume. Your challenge is to fill that gap and if you don’t have a paid position, it is perfectly okay to put a volunteer position on there.
Absolutely. I would encourage that. If you are demonstrating giving skills to an organization from your expertise and your past experiences, or if you are gaining skills and experiences through that opportunity, that’s definitely experience. I even have on my resume, I use “Relevant Experience”, or “Professional Experience”, I think that’s what I say… that it’s not necessarily, “These are my hired positions”, but it’s more like, “These are opportunities and positions that I’ve held that may or may not be paid but are still contributing to the community involvement along the same lines of the work I’m doing in general.”
I would also encourage Jenna, while you’re in-between and while you’re laid off, and I really am sorry to hear that happen, because I know that that can feel really bad, especially when you’ve haven’t prepared for that. Oftentimes being laid off or let go can be harder than when you quit your job because it wasn’t your decision and you feel the lack of control there, but I do encourage Jenna and anyone else in this scenario to get involved and give back. Demonstrate your value with organizations that are doing the type of work that you want to do, or even along the same lines of the skills that you have.
This will give you a couple of different benefits; it will give you a purpose while you’re not working, it will allow you to help others, and it will also get you meeting and getting in front of new people that you may not be meeting otherwise, that you can develop those connections. We’ve talked about this multiple times, you never know who those people might know that could connect you with a position that you could easily be hired for.
I would also say that employers can also tell…this is just one other piece of advice for anyone going through the job search process…stay positive about this. I think employers can tell when someone has a chip on their shoulder about something, about anything, or feel that the cards are stacked against you. Making sure that you process your emotions before you go into, especially the interview process, or just the job search process in general as well. Just make sure that you’re in a positive zone where you can be able to talk about your skills, and your strengths, and your experiences, without having the weight of that loss of job on top of you. If you do feel like this was unfair, which it probably was, but I want to reiterate that this is not an isolated thing, almost everyone has been laid off or fired, so it doesn’t reflect poorly on you as a human. Sometimes unfortunate stuff happens and I think that focusing on what you do have, and what you have to offer, rather than the circumstances of what happened, will really benefit you in the long run.
I’d love to hear what else you guys would have to say.
Yeah, Jessica, I thought you did a great job answering that question and I would completely agree with you and say that it’s really about how you frame that time when you were unemployed. I think if you come at it negatively and say, “Oh I’ve been out of work for four months”, and you just approach it from a negative standpoint in an interview, that will probably come across to the hiring manager.
But if you come at it from a positive perspective and say, “I spent all of this time volunteering at this local organization that I’m really passionate about and I’ve learned all these great skills”, or maybe you’ve taken some time to identify your career goals. Maybe outside of volunteering, if there’s something else you’ve done that’s really valuable and you can demonstrate to employers that you’ve made the most of your time unemployed, I think that is what will matter most to them at the end of the day.
Yeah, I think that’s really important, and even just being able reframe it by saying, “It was a surprise. I didn’t expect to lose this job because I really enjoyed what I was doing before but it was a welcome respite from the hubbub, and I was able to do x,y, and z, while I was looking for other things.” I think that’s exactly right, to reframe it to exactly what you are doing rather than what happened to you or what you haven’t been doing.
Yeah, talk about the present, not the past, and talk about the future, where you want to go and how you’re using the time you have to get there.
Two quick tactical suggestions: Sometimes with professionals, they take consulting projects and they might do a contract or two. Use their last name and put it down as “The Smith Group”, that’s how they describe what they’re doing and they might name the one, or two, or more clients they have.
When I went through two long periods of unemployment, what I did was I I volunteered on Congressional campaigns. No one asked me if Joe Kennedy for Congress paid me, or if Ron Wyden for US Senate paid me. I just had the brand, and I walked away with great connections and a wonderful experience, and a good letter of reference. Eventually, as my career progressed, those three 6-month stints disappeared from my resume because you don’t have to account for the last six months in 1996.
It’s a phase you’re going through, Jenna. You’re not crazy; sadly, some employers do not want to talk to people who are out of work. I’ve been there and many of listeners as Jessica said, have been there too. The question is, what can you control? You can control what you do with your time now and how you describe that.
That’s right, and good luck. It’s not going to be forever so keep your head up during this time and stay active.
Thank you, Jessica, and thank you, Jenna for the question. If you’ve got a question for Jessica, send her an email. Her address is: email@example.com. You can also call that listener line; the number is area-code, 716-JOB-TALK – or post your question on the Mac’s List Facebook group.
However you send your question, if we use it on the show, we’ll send you a copy of our book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere
We’ll be back in a moment. When we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Sara Holtz, about how to build your network strategically.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
Now, let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Sara Holtz.
Sara Holtz is passionate about helping women succeed in the workplace.
She hosts the podcast, Advice to My Younger Me. In each episode, Sara and her guest, another successful woman, provide clear, practical career advice.
Sara began her podcast after an accomplished career as a business lawyer, a senior executive at Fortune 500 companies, and as a nationally-recognized expert helping women lawyers achieve career success. She is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. She joins us today from San Francisco.
Sara, welcome to the show.
Well, thank you very much for having me.
It’s a pleasure and I’m very excited about our topic because we’re big networking nerds here at Find Your Dream Job. We’re going to be talking about how to build a network strategically. Why is that important, Sara?
Well you know, I think networking sometimes gets a bad rap because people think of it as going to those daunting and unproductive networking events and handing out their cards. The truth is, if you think about your network and how you build it, both intentionally and with an intention to leverage it, having a network is a really valuable exercise, which is going to reap you great benefits in your career.
How do you recommend people get started? What should they be thinking about? Because I agree, when I talk to job seekers, people are thinking about the function room at the airport, Holiday Inn, going around measuring success by the number of cards they collect? But what should people do as they think about being a network strategically? How do you start?
Well, let me take a step back and say what a well-constructed, strategic network can do for you.
The first thing that it can do is that it can provide you with information, which can be useful to you, both in finding a job, and doing well in the job you have. For example, your network might be able to help you identify who would be a good headhunter for a job that you’re trying to pursue. Or it might be nothing more than suggesting a good restaurant to take a potential client to in San Francisco that’s trendy enough to be cool but not really noisy. Or it might be information which allows you to understand who’s the hiring manager in this company. That’s the first thing that your network can do for you if it’s well constructed. It can provide you with information.
The second thing that it can do is it can provide you with resources, like, “What’s a great book to read about time management because I’m having a really hard time figuring out how to organize my day.” Or, “I’m a first line manager and I’ve never had this experience before. Is there a course that I can take that might help me do that?”
Then the third thing that your network can do for you is to provide you with advice. How do you ask for a raise? Should you go to business school given what your career path is? Whatever it may be.
Then finally, what we typically think about when we think about networking, is that your network can provide you with introductions to people that you want to meet who can help you find a new job, can help you transition industries, whatever it may be.
It is important to think about the ways in which your network can help you. Then, to think about, “What are my goals? What am I trying to achieve in my career?” Not in my networking, but in my career, or maybe even in life. When you’re clear about what that is, and obviously that’s beyond the scope of what we’re going to talk about today and I’m sure you’ve talked about that in previous episodes with your other guests, but when you get a clear picture of what it is that you’re trying to achieve, “I want a new job”; “I want to get promoted within my current job”; “I want to figure out what the skills are that I need to be able to be more effective in the job that I have.”
When you figure out what your career goals are at this particular juncture, you can start to think about, “So who are the people that can help me actually achieve my goals?” That’s what I mean about building a strategic network. Be clear about your goals, then to build your network around the kind of support that you need through other people to achieve those goals.
That’s a very good description and what I love about it is the examples you gave, particularly in the beginning, are the things that people are likely already doing. They are already turning to friends for advice about restaurants, suggestions about books, or advice, perhaps about making decisions about graduate school. I bring this up because often, when I talk about networking to job seekers, they say, “Well I don’t have much of a network, I don’t know anyone.” But everybody has a network, don’t they, Sara?
Yeah, and I’d like to highlight that because I think that many people underestimate what their network is and when I think about networking, I think about the fact that there are actually two groups of people within your network.
There’s what I’d call your core network. Your core network might be as few as two, or as many as fifteen, people. These are the people who you could ask to do a significant favor for you. Drive you to the airport, babysit your dog overnight, things like that, and typically if we map people’s networks, and I’m going to suggest that people actually do that in just a moment, that number is around fifteen.
Then there’s the broader network, which is literally all the people that you know, that you’ve had contact with. As we know from our experience with LinkedIn, that can be in the hundreds of people.
First of all, you need to be aware that you have those two networks and I suggest to people that they actually map out their network because as you say, people often underestimate the size of their network. Typically, they also underutilize their networks. One thing that I suggest people do in terms of mapping their network is actually sit down, take half an hour at Starbucks, and do something like, who are the people that you work with that you would consider acquaintances? People you would be comfortable sitting down and saying, “Could I take you out to get a cup of coffee? I have some questions I’d like to ask you. I need your advice on something.”
Then think about, who are the people you engage in social activities with? Who are the people you have over for dinner? People you might know through organizations you belong to. Who are the people you might know from your church or synagogue activities? Those kinds of people.
Think about the people you can express personal concerns with. If you’re trying to figure out, should your kid join a travelling soccer team? Or if you’re trying to figure out whether or not your boss is a jerk, or whether his demands are realistic, who are those people that you turn to for that kind of advice?
Then, think about who may have taught you a new skill or introduced you to something new recently. Who is somebody who put you on to a new newsfeed that you read or a new podcast that you listen to? Those kinds of things. Who are the people who mentor you, or for that matter, who you serve as a mentor? Who are people who have similar interests that you do in political activities or another kind of cause? You belong to the same PTA group or you belong to the same hiking group.
I could go on and on about how you think about mapping your network but too often, people think about it in this very rigid way of, “Who do I know that I met at a networking event?” Or, “Who do I know who I would ask for a job?” But your network is so much broader than that and I think it’s useful, if you go through the mapping exercise that I’m suggesting. As I said, you can ask lots of different questions as well. Who did I go to college with? Whose kids do my kids play with? Whatever it may be. It starts really opening you up to the notion that actually, you do have a network.
The issue is probably not that you have a network but that you haven’t figured out how you can leverage them to use them for the goals that you have.
Let’s talk about that because you’ve laid out a great series of questions people can use to identify the groups that they’re already connected to and to appreciate the value those groups offer them. But I see people struggle, and I bet you do too, Sara, with what to ask these folks. I think many job seekers, they invite someone out to coffee, they say, “I’d love to pick your brain”, then they’re not quite sure what to do. They struggle in that conversation. How should people approach that??
I guess there’s two different questions; one of them is, “What could I ask those people about?” Secondly, “How do I go about asking them?”
I like that, yeah.
Those are two kind of different issues. The first one is, I go back to what I said at the outset, which is, you can ask people for introductions, you can ask them for resources, you can ask them for advice, you can ask them for different kinds of information that might be useful to you. Again, the point I want to make here is I think sometimes people underestimate the kinds of help that they can get from their networks because all they’re thinking about is, “Who can get me a job?” Your network can give you lots of steps, which are intermediate to getting a job. Before you can get a job, you need to know who the hiring manager is. Before you can get a job you need to know who’s looking to hire. Before you can get a job, you may need to know what critical skills are for people who perform in that job and how you might go about getting them.
I want to expand the way people think about networking to think about it in some way other than it’s meeting customers, it’s meeting hiring managers, it’s meeting potential clients.
Then the second question is, how do you make it an ask for help? I think the first thing you need to do is to be really careful and thoughtful about making your ask something specific and something that the person you’re asking of can actually deliver on. What do I mean by that? Oftentimes people are like…I actually got a phone call today that was like this. Somebody connected to me through somebody I’m a close friend of, and this person is a close friend of that person. She called me up and said, “I’m a young lawyer, and I’d like your advice.”
I say, “Great. What kind of advice?” She goes, “What kind of advice would you give to a young lawyer?” Well, that’s such a broad request. Ultimately, after I spent a polite amount of time in my interaction with her, I said to her, “The next time that you face a challenge that you’d actually like advice on, please feel free to give me a call.” In my view, her ask was a terrible ask because it was basically asking me to do all the work to figure out, “What kind of advice would I give her?” Well, I’ve written a book about things like this so obviously, that was not a five to ten minute conversation.
Similarly, let’s say you’re interested in getting a job in the tech arena in San Francisco. Instead of saying to somebody, “Hey, if you ever hear from someone who’s looking for somebody with my set of skills”, whatever those may be, ask instead, “Do you know somebody who I could connect with at x, y, z, company; that I’ve already done the research to know that that’s the type of company I would like to work at.” In other words, to make your ask very specific and very actionable on the part of the other person. Now, that’s going to require you to do some work.
You have to actually research what are potential companies in the Bay area that might be interesting to you or might be looking for people with your skills. But no matter how hard that task is, it’s much more likely that you’re going to be motivated to do that task than the person you’re asking.
Agreed, and I certainly have had my share of conversations just as you described where people come and they have a few general questions. Usually, they’re struggling with their job search goal and they don’t quite know where they’re going. They think they should have these conversations but they don’t know what to ask for, so they end up asking very general things like, “Could you look at my resume?” “Do you have any general advice?” It’s a lost opportunity, isn’t it? When you reach out to someone and you don’t have a specific ask.
I’m going to actually amplify that and say, not only is it a lost opportunity, but it definitely doesn’t leave that person with a very positive impression of you. In other words, first of all, it leaves you with the impression that they’re not very focused. Secondly, it leaves you with the impression that they really weren’t conscious of the fact that they were asking a favor of you. They’re asking you to invest your time in helping them and they weren’t very gracious about how they treated that opportunity.
How do people get clear? I think you’ve laid this out, you need to know what you want, and have a specific request. Any other tips about how to arrive at that ask?
Again, I think you really need to prepare for it and I think that happens not frequently enough. Preparing for it can both be, sitting down and thinking out, “How do I think this person could help me? What’s a specific ask I can make of them? Could they introduce me to somebody? Are they aware of a specific connection at a company?”
The second part is that, sometimes, that requires doing hard research and actually doing that research.
I can imagine listeners are thinking right now, Sara, two questions. One, “Won’t someone be offended if I make a specific request, like, ‘Could you introduce me to this lady at that company?’” Second, “Why would anybody take a meeting like that?” What would you say to that listener?
Well, let’s divide this into those two questions. Are they going to be offended? I’m guessing you’re really overestimating people’s reaction to that. I think that’s the simplest possible thing. If they don’t want to help you, they’ll say, “No I don’t.” I don’t think most people are offended at the asks you make. I think they may be offended, again, if they feel that you’re wasting their time, which is true if your ask is not specific enough.
The second part of your question…I forgot that.
“Why would a busy person, especially, but anybody, take a meeting like this where you’re going to ask them for their time and their help? Aren’t most people going to say no?” I’ve had job seekers say that to me.
Sure. Well first of all, some people will say no but there’s lots of reasons why people will do it. One of them is maybe they like you. Hard to believe, right? Maybe they want to pay it forward; maybe they’re hoping that the connection between the two of you actually will be valuable to them as well. For example, in this young woman who called me, I actually like having in my network younger people, that’s who my podcast audience is, younger career professionals. That potentially could have been a good connection for me, in the sense that sometimes I like to call them up and say, “I’m thinking about doing an episode on this. Is this an issue that you find troubling? Will you give me an example of when you did have a problem around this issue and what did it look like? Who would you like to hear as a guest?” There may be this mutual benefit to it.
A lot of people like to help and one of the things with a specific ask, the benefit of the specific ask, is that it actually takes very little effort on the person you’re making the request of, it takes very little effort for them to help you. But from your perspective, it’s incredibly valuable. From my standpoint, those are the best kinds of favors, something which is very valuable to you and not very difficult for the other person to do because they’re happy to do it, it’s no big deal, they’re happy to forward your email, they’re happy to forward your resume to somebody particularly if you’ve written the draft email of what they’re going to send. That can be incredibly valuable to you. I’d say get over that.
Good advice. Well, I really enjoyed this conversation. I could talk for a long time about it, but we do have to bring it to a close, Sara. Tell us, what’s next for you?
Well, every two weeks I have an episode on my Advice To My Younger Me podcast and we talk about many issues which affect career success for millenial women, professional millennial women. I hope people will take a listen to that podcast, Advice To My Younger Me, available wherever you listen to podcasts. I think our next session that’s coming up is How To Survive Being Fired.
Okay, I’ll tune into that; that’s happened to me twice so I can’t wait to hear the advice. I have listened to your show and I hope our listeners will check it out, it’s very valuable. You’ve got some terrific guests and wonderful advice there.
Thanks so much.
Yeah, well Sara, I know people can learn more about you and your show by visiting your website tomyyounger.me.
Sara, thanks for being on the show this week.
Of course, take care.
We’re back in the studio with Leila and Jessica. I really enjoyed that conversation with Sara. How about you two?
That was excellent, she had so much good content to share.
It was really insightful, yeah.
What were some of the highlights for you?
Well, I loved how she broke everything down into very clear, actionable steps that people can take. We talked about that at the beginning of the episode, clear and actionable steps to break down a nebulous topic, especially how to get a job and how to navigate job searching. It’s really important and I liked her focus on the fact that your network is not just who you meet at events, or who can get you a job, and you touched upon this as well. It’s about who you have that’s giving you advice, and information, and resources, and are there for you to just be a support system.
I thought that was really important and I liked her emphasis on sitting down and mapping out who those people are and what levels they are.
I also really liked her focus on being clear about both what you want and especially what you are requesting of people, to be able to maximize those conversations when you do ask your network for any types of advice, information, resources, or favors. Knowing who to ask so you’re not asking the wrong people, but also being clear about what it is you’re asking from them and making sure that you can reciprocate and that it’s not a one-sided conversation. I thought that was really interesting.
Yeah, I agree. I think this is something we’ve probably talked a lot about on the podcast, or I’ve noticed it in various blogs around the website as well, but not just asking someone for coffee and saying, “Oh, can I pick your brain?” That’s just a very standard kind of question and I think she did a great job of explaining why you need to come to every interaction with very specific questions; that way you can get very specific advice or actionable stuff for your career, instead of just getting a general piece of advice from somebody that might not be very useful.
Yeah, and letting that person know what it is you want to speak to them about ahead of time so they can be prepared…prepared with various resources or whatever it is that they can give to you. It’s not just they show up, and they don’t really know what they’re going to be talking about because that can catch them off guard as well. I liked her focus on how not being prepared and not being clear about those can actually make your connection weaker because it takes advantage of that relationship.
Yeah, totally. I really liked how she mentioned that, in advance, you should map out your network and identify the people who are going to help you meet your career goals instead of just asking random people to coffee, which I feel like is what I would do and what a lot of other people would do.
Especially when you’re younger and you don’t really know, and you just are like, “Well, I just want some guidance, I want some help. This person seems to have their life together and I want to gather that from them.” But it is a lot that you’re asking of somebody if you’re just saying, “Tell me what to do.” Because they don’t know how to help you if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
I have a lot of those conversations, because I think that people don’t know how to prepare for these meetings and so, often, people come to see me for an informational interview and I’ll end up asking them a few basic questions about their goals, companies, or nonprofits that interest them, and it’s the kind of conversation you might have with a counselor at a career service’s office or an employment office. You should have that talk but if you’re seeking someone and asking for an informational interview, think about how they can best help you. If you need general career advice, it’s probably not somebody who is a leader in your field. There are probably much more valuable things they can do for you than review your resume and give you some general advice.
Yeah, and I liked Sara’s emphasis on doing that research on your own ahead of time so that you are coming to those meetings prepared, and you’re prepared once your asking for whatever it is you’re asking for. Anyway, it was a great conversation. I agree with you that I think all three of us could have talked about it for a long time.
We could, yeah.
Yeah, three networking nerds around the table and proud of it.
Well, thank you both, and thank you, Sara, for all of that terrific advice, and you, our listeners, for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
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