Some thoughts on networking

Every year around Homecoming time I get a sudden influx of emails from old schoolmates. None of those emails ever have anything to do with Homecoming. Instead, they contain networking questions for the schoolmates themselves or friends or relatives of said schoolmates, often with resumes attached. I’m not really sure if Homecoming has anything to do with this (I haven’t been to my school’s Homecoming in three years), but the timing just seems to coincide. Maybe this time of year puts people in mind of old schoolmates. Or maybe it’s about now, when students have packed up their belongings and returned to school, that this year’s graduates begin to hit panic mode as they still seek employment, and they start shaking the old networking tree in search of work. (Hey, I get it! I was there in September 2008, believe me.)

I want to be clear upfront: I love helping people in their job search, and I’d be more than fine with 10 emails in my inbox a day from job seekers. The more the merrier. I remember the stress of trying to find work myself, and I know that I’ve been helped by some truly amazing people in my own (relatively short) professional life. If I can help, I’m going to and I want to. Please: keep the emails coming.

But first, we need to get some basics straight.

If you’re interested in a specific job that you heard about from me or someone else, put that in the objective line of your resume. What, you don’t have an objective line? Remember the hiring manager’s perspective. If he’s trying to fill a specific job with specific needs, what is he supposed to do with a resume from a recent college graduate in Whatever Liberal Arts Studies who has zero relevant experience but won an honors award back in sophomore year? He can’t just hire you on the spot for your potential. Build a statement of intent into your resume. If you’re applying for a specific job or area, make sure you tailor your statement of intent to fit. Who are you? What do you want? Why are you a good candidate for the opening my company happens to be seeking to fill? Make sure you work that into your resume (or at the very least make it clear as day in a good cover letter) before you send it over.

Also, after a bit of experience, I feel it only fair to warn all comers up front, I’m not able to pass along resumes from people who can’t give me a clear idea of what they want to do. “Hey, I want a job because I have to pay my bills” is legitimate, but it won’t work as a job seeking tactic. Especially if you’re networking, remember that people want to help, but they also need some direction in order to know what to send your way.

So be clear and upfront about what you’re looking for. If you haven’t taken the time to sit down and decide that for yourself, I suggest you do so. If you don’t know what you want to do, come up with three things you at least wouldn’t hate doing, and go from there. Just remember, at least in an economy like ours is now, directionless work-seekers need not throw their resumes into the ring for actual jobs that other people want.

Worried that you don’t have relevant experience? Maybe you don’t. Talk to people in the profession and find out. If you’re entry level, many places will cut you some slack, but that doesn’t mean you can waltz in with a resume that says “I have no experience!” and expect hiring managers to shrug that off. Do you have relevant talents? Interests? Snippets of experience? Taking my own profession as an example, I don’t care if your only relevant editorial experience has been shaking your head at typos in your favorite books or proofing your roommates’ English papers. Put it in your resume. Talk it up. Make it sound as important as it probably is. And I do mean that, experience of any sort can be really valuable. Don’t be ashamed to be entry level, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box a bit, too, if you’re trying to get into a particular field. I mean, within reason…

Finally, please remember that you do not deserve a job. No, like anything else in this life, you earn it. Having a job is a privilege. You can’t just toss a half-hearted resume at a hiring manager or a friend of a friend in the company and then sit back and wait for the job to come to you. Do you want it? Prove that you want it, and that you deserve it. Make it apparent from your very first email to me, telling me who you are and what you want and how I can help you network or even get your resume in front of the right person.

People love to help other people get jobs or find professional advice. I can’t stress it enough, I love it when people reach out to me. But I want to be really helpful to you, and in order to do that I have to know what you want and why you’ll be great at it. For my old school friends and their networks, it’s a privilege to be able to help out in something as momentous as a job search. I truly believe in the potential, capability, and professionalism of every person I know. When I’m passing resumes along, though, I can only say so much. Once the resume leaves my hand, it’s up to you–and what you put in that resume.


One thought on “Some thoughts on networking

  1. This paper is spot on! It amazes me how many resumes have no objective and no specific goals. If the prospective candidate doesn’t know what he wants to do, then his resume goes to the bottom. If I decide to spend limited payroll dollars to hire someone with no experience, to do nothing in particular, I can always pull from the bottom!

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