I moved to a different state 2.5 years ago.
It was a sudden decision. My husband had been out of work for more than half a year, and we began to realize that his prospects would brighten if we relocated.
So, he broadened his search, and here we are in Rochester, NY, 400 miles from Columbus, Ohio, where I had lived for 25 years, and where he had lived for 12. My husband has a job he loves (he already has been promoted), and we live in a great area, near Lake Ontario.
I’ve moved before—four times growing up, and several times as an adult. I lived on my own in Chicago right after college graduation without knowing a single person there. I’m not intimidated by the process.
But this time was different. Everything was closed. There were few options for meeting anyone in person. There certainly were no in-person networking events to attend. I work in my home office. My husband went to an office every day (his job in quality engineering was not remote for obvious reasons).
I was isolated.
I’ve been thinking that this is how you can feel when you’re in a job search. You’ve left a company where you had a routine and colleagues. You saw people regularly, even in a hybrid situation. You belonged to something.
Then suddenly, r-i-i-i-i-p! There you are, torn from your tribe; left to swing in the wind until you can gain another foothold.
I can hear in my clients’ voices how shattered they feel. They try not to show it, but sometimes it seeps through.
I reassure them. There are ways to mitigate that loneliness and maintain a grip on the process. They are grounded within networking.
There’s a way to get past this.
When I moved, I realized that doing nothing to meet new people would not be a great course of action. If I expected to make new friends and spread the word in a new city about my career coaching business, I couldn’t wait for people to come to me.
So, I got busy researching local groups. I identified a women’s networking group and perused its calendar. In late 2020, that meant lineup of digital networking events. Nothing in person. But, better than nothing. So, I signed up.
I then learned about a local job club, and I registered and started attending online meetings to hear more about the local employment climate and offer insights that could help those looking for jobs.
I volunteered to be part of committees within the organizations I joined, and in this way built deeper relationships with many of my new connections while learning more about their work and life in Rochester.
Each time I met a new person I asked who else I should meet. Who could tell me more about my new city? Who was connected to the business community? Were there any fellow career professionals I could network with?
As I grew my contact list, I scheduled virtual chats. Some people felt okay meeting at coffee shops. So, I did that.
Gradually, I leveraged my new network to deliver presentations and become a guest on a few podcasts.
And the most important aspect of this strategy: I kept—continue to keep—in touch as best I can with many of my local connections. I share news, drink coffee, have lunch, and try my best to keep up with what folks are doing and congratulate them on their successes.
I feel now that I “really live here.” I have friends with mutual interests. I have expanded my professional network and helped many new clients.
You can do this, too. It will help your job search. In fact, personal connection is the best way to find out about jobs and learn more about companies. It’s often the weakest component of a job search because people don’t know where to start or what to say.
Let’s fix this. Start here:
Find the people
🔎Get insular. The people who work in your industry are in many places. Look online to find organizations offering education and/or advocacy in your field. Identify conferences coming up. Attend one or two. Build your knowledge at the sessions but make new professional friends in between. (This is so much more targeted than simply using Google or the general job boards!)
🔎Meet insiders. Make a list of your top 20 target companies. Find people who work there (LinkedIn is a great tool for this.). Reach out to them to make a connection.
🔎Look locally. You will find surprising connections at local groups organized for job seekers. People from varied industries attend these meetings. You never know who has a connection that could be useful. (And you will get support for your search.)
🔎Volunteer. Community service organizations are a great way to meet more people. You get to give back while working beside like-minded people who have jobs and networks of their own.
🔎Get nostalgic. College alumni events are great places to make new friends. Bond over your experiences while learning more about your fellow alums’ expertise and networks.
🔎Get personal. And of course, consider your network. You know people: friends, relatives, neighbors, fellow parents from your kids’ schools, your dentist, and people you’ve worked with and for.
How to approach people
This is the painful part. We so easily hide behind job boards. We scroll, but don’t contribute.
And yet, networking is so much easier today! You can use email, instant messages on LinkedIn, or voice mail.
Whatever your preference, don’t start the interaction with your metaphorical guns blazing, asking about jobs. Instead, start with a soft introduction. Explain that are reaching out because you have been following their company and want to learn more about its work and culture.
As you have conversations, ask about their role and what they do at the company. This will show that you are genuinely interested in them and their work.
Share your own experiences and interests. This will help you build rapport with them and make the conversation more natural.
Ask if they would be willing to connect you with someone else in the company who might be a good resource for you. This is a more indirect way of asking for help with your job search, and it shows that you are respectful of their time.
If you are talking to someone who knows you, ask if they would be willing to have coffee or chat virtually and give you some feedback on your next career move. Friends, former bosses, and former colleagues can be great sounding boards.
Practice curiosity, respect, generosity, and gratitude
Be genuine and interested in people. Don’t just reach out to people because you think they can help you with your job search. Take the time to get to know them and learn about their work. This will make you more memorable and help you build stronger relationships.
Respect their time. Keep your messages short, and don’t expect them to answer all of your questions in one email or message.
Focus on giving, not taking. People will often talk about their work and its challenges. Offer some insights. Offer to connect them with other people. Or simply offer your support. This will show that you’re interested in building relationships, not just in getting what you can from them.
This one’s ESSENTIAL: Thank them! Follow up with a note. Express gratitude for their time. Pay for their coffee!
Ask if you can keep in touch. And then do it. This is where many people fail. They don’t follow through. Keep in touch periodically by sending articles of interest, and congratulatory emails for their successes (you may see online that they got a promotion or won an award).
Networking takes time. But it’s one of the most effective ways to advance your career. So, keep going.
Feel awkward? That’s okay. With enough practice, you will start to feel more comfortable.
Not hearing back from some people? That’s okay, too. Move on to the next person. The world’s a big place.
Remember: One of the biggest payoffs you will achieve from networking is that you will make lasting connections. If you maintain them, the benefits (for all of you) will grow with time.
The other benefit: You will demonstrate to hiring managers that you have initiative and communication skills and can think more creatively than many of your competitors.
That just might win you the job.