The Value of Networking and the Power of Career Coaching: Ginny Sorensen’s Story

Everyone faces their own challenges when job hunting and trying to determine their next move for their career. Ginny Sorensen is a management consultant for Propeller, a consulting firm with offices in Portland and San Francisco. Ginny reveals how she overcame the burn out and tiresome nature of the job-hunting experience. She shares how a combination of personal networking, a career coach and online courses helped her to make a move to a new position in an exciting new industry.

What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

I’m a consultant at Propeller, a management consulting firm with offices in Portland and San Francisco full of folks who love the adventure of solving complex problems.

How long did it take you to find this job?

About 9 months.

How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?

The shortest answer: Networking.

The short answer: Thoughtful networking (mostly via informational interviews with friends of my network or folks I found via LinkedIn, but also with professional association events and trainings), working with a career coach, volunteering on pro bono consulting projects with folks already working in the field, reading/listening to oodles of job search resources and stories on the Mac’s List website and elsewhere, forming a small group of fellow jobseekers for practical and moral support.

The long answer: I was on a hike in Forest Park with a former coworker of mine, brainstorming ideas for informational interviews and she recommended I connect with her cousin who was in love with a job she’d recently started. Turns out she’d transitioned out of roles in nonprofit management and corporate social responsibility to become a consultant at Propeller. We had lunch and after her description of the way she worked, the culture of the company, and how much she enjoyed her coworkers, I was super energized and quickly launched into learning as much as I could about the company and its work, as well as the industry in general.

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From there I focused subsequent informational interviews on getting suggestions for how to translate my nonprofit work into language more commonly used in business. When Propeller opened recruitment again, I met with a colleague of my original contact and another Propellerite I met through a pro bono consulting project I did with the Organization Development Network of Oregon, a local professional association. I had great impressions of everyone I met and decided to apply. After four rounds of interviews I was offered and accepted a position. I’d had interviews for positions I’d applied for elsewhere, but these really stood out for me because I left each one even more interested in the company and more energized by the possibility of working there.

Advice that helped the most: I’d already worked closely with a career coach to define my work values and identify some fields to explore and I’d had over 20 informational interviews before I made my first contact at Propeller. Two prior interviewees really helped me focus—one suggested to me that I’d narrowed my interests enough that my “informational” interviews had shifted to being actual interviews where I was not only gathering information, but also being evaluated as a potential employee. She encouraged me to weave information about my skills and knowledge into each chat. Another asked a simple question that really hit me: “I can tell you have several ideas about what direction to go next, and that’s great, but what information are you missing that’s preventing you from picking a direction and seeing how it plays out?” She spotted the fear I had about changing directions in my career and really prompted me to stop and dissect what was holding me back—it was an important turning point.

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As someone who hadn’t searched for a job in over a decade, I found the resources available through Mac’s List to be invaluable. I attended an in-person Mac’s List networking event, read the blog, took the “How to Woo + Wow Employers Online” course, and even downloaded hours’ worth of old podcasts on the topic of interviewing to listen to on a road trip prior to my first interview. I also had some valuable insights from conversations with Mac’s List staff.

It’s tough to identify what was most helpful—when I look back, I think having different people, tools, and resources available at different times in my journey kept me on track.

What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?

There was a time a few months into my search where I was getting discouraged and just plain worn out. I had a bit of a crisis of confidence about whether I could make the pivot to a new industry as I’d hoped, and was feeling discouraged that I wasn’t finding many open positions that looked interesting. My career coach (friend of Mac’s List, Aubrie De Clerck) helped me refocus and build my confidence with an assignment to reach out to former colleagues and community partners for their feedback about my greatest gifts and talents. I was overwhelmed with the support and response I got from those who replied. Having “evidence” of my value from this exercise gave me the confidence boost I needed and helped me get unstuck.

About the same time I also stumbled into a small group of other jobseekers after meeting someone at a networking event. We started meeting regularly to support each other—the practical help and cheerleading from that group was a game-changer. It was great to have the help and accountability, but almost as important was knowing I was also of help to others in the group.

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What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?

Don’t underestimate the value of networking, and don’t assume the only way to do it is going to big events where you have to make small talk with strangers. Those types of events make me anxious, but I spoke one-on-one with over 40 folks who were either in my direct network, connected to someone I knew, or connected to someone I met along the way. It was a total blast. I was amazed by the generosity of the people I met when it came to their time, information, and contacts—there are so many interesting people and jobs in the world. There are some great suggestions worth checking out in Mac’s List blog posts and podcast episodes for how to approach informational interviews.

Why do you love your job?

I’m just getting started in my new job and it’s a complete industry and sector shift, so it’s tough to know what I’ll enjoy the best, but what I’m most excited about are the many opportunities for learning and problem-solving coming my way, and for the chance to have project-based work that could take me to a new company or industry with each new engagement.