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Take My Card, Please!

Monday, February 27, 2012
By:

Dear Miriam,

For those of us who are job-hunting, could you share some tips for successful and effective networking?

Signed,
Take My Card, Please!

Dear Card,

Tomorrow is one of the most successful networking events I know of: The 11th Annual Law Networking Event run by the Jewish Graduate Student Network and The Louis D. Brandeis Law Society. Yes, it's possible that I'm partial to the event, but I have also seen it have tangible impact on people's careers. If you're looking for employment in a law-related field, you should be there, but even if you aren't, there are important lessons to take from the event, namely, connections are the best tools for finding a job. In this case, the connection is Jewish Philadelphians in the legal profession, but don't limit yourself.

A surprising number of people in the recent and economically challenging past have told me that they want to get a job on their own merits and not feel like they're getting hired because of who they know or because they called in a favor. But really, job-hunting is the perfect, most relevant life situation to call in favors. Granted, calling your parents' friends might not be your first choice, so reach out to former colleagues, your college alumni office, the guy who always sits behind you on Rosh Hashanah. Then suck it up and call your parents' friends if they're in a position to help you. You won't get a job because of who you know, but you might get an interview. Then you can rely on your merits.

A few years ago, it might have been embarrassing to be unemployed for an extended period of time, but that was before unemployment jumped to nearly 10% in 2010. I'm not suggesting that unemployment is easy or fashionable, but you're not alone.

In terms of practical tips, you'll find that my strategies are a lot like those I recommended for dating:

Look the part and sound the part: Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, recognize the people you're interacting with as potential job contacts and act accordingly. Take the drunk pictures off Facebook and stop updating your status about how bored and frustrated you are. Be professional and competent, even if you're just sitting in a coffee shop updating your resume. Again.
Be well-rounded: Even while interacting with all these potential contacts, don't bore anyone with the details of your job search. Talk about your passions, your experiences, that fascinating NPR story you just heard, or better yet, ask them about their work and their interests.
Be flexible: You might not find your dream job this week or, sadly, this year. Be willing to take a job outside your field or one that you're overqualified for so that your resume is current and you can take pride in being employed.
Use/don't use the Internet: There are lots of helpful job sites out there. But you can spend all day browsing them as if they were online dating profiles and never get anywhere. Don't just browse; apply. Go to job fairs in person even if it's just to practice your networking skills.
The following are, maybe, a little more practical and a little less like dating advice:

Always have your card on hand and offer it to people liberally. Have a resume, too, but don't share it unless someone asks. Take others' cards and follow up with them.
The fundraising adage says, "Ask for money and you get advice. Ask for advice, and you might get some money." Ask for a lot of advice.
If you get interviews, and I hope you do, feel free to be excited about them, but don't share the details with everyone you know. Until you've been offered a job, I recommend keeping the application and interviewing ups and downs to yourself and a couple close friends.
Take risks. Apply for jobs you might not get. Follow up with the people hiring, but not too soon and not too often.
I already said this once, but I'm going to say it again: Be flexible. A job outside your field is still a job, and being employed makes you more employable.
Wishing you lots of luck with the job hunt!  Happy networking, and be well,
Miriam

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