Advice for Young Career Seekers: How to Network With Family and Friends
by Hallie Crawford, MA, CPCC
Ever seriously considered talking to friends and relatives about career matters? Believe it or not, it can be one of the first big career moves you make. You'll most likely gain some great insights and maybe even an opportunity or two – try it out.
Granted, networking with your nearest and dearest may feel uncomfortable at first. But since you don't yet have a professional network, you almost have to start with people in your immediate circle. Actually, this is a great opportunity for them to start seeing you as more than just a kid out of college, but someone serious about their future goals.
You may feel a bit funny about approaching your uncle Bob in a professional and serious manner. But believe it or not, he can be one of the best people to give you the inside scoop on your chosen field... and he'll likely be flattered that you asked for his advice.
Okay, so now you're probably wondering, how do I kick this networking thing into gear? Here are few tips to ease you into the practice:
Take the first step.
If you have a former employer from a college job, then definitely contact them and make sure you get letters of recommendation. Next, start thinking of who you can approach - and ask your parents for ideas. They know more people than you think and may even have some connections in the industry you’re interested in. Family and friends are usually happy to support you so they're a safer place to get this process going.
Don't be afraid to make the cold call.
Sure you may not know your second cousin well, but people love to talk about themselves. They also usually love to help young people get a leg up. Start with an email introduction if possible, so you're not putting them on the spot on the phone. Ask them for a good time to talk... and be sure to find out how much time they can give you so you're respectful of that.
Be persistent in searching for names.
Brainstorm everyone you know. Keep your eyes and ears open for potential career networking opportunities... on email, at the next family gathering, or social event you attend and so on. If one idea doesn't pan out well or someone doesn't respond, don't take it personally. Sometimes people get caught up in the stress of everyday life, and they simply forget to get back to you. If that happens, follow up at least once to be sure you don't miss a good opportunity. If someone isn't open to talking with you, they're probably not a good fit for you anyway. Whatever you do, know that it will happen for you at the right place and time. So don't stagnate - move on and keep going.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
There's no need to be shy about asking for information or help. If the person you're planning to speak with enjoys what they do and are kind-hearted, they'll be happy to give advice and recommendations. Many jobs are landed by following up on a referral, so pursue these personal contacts with commitment. Be persistent - make it a point to chat with people about your career plans.
Prepare questions in advance.
Be curious; show genuine interest in the career paths that friends and family members have followed. If you don't understand something, know that this is okay - and that the best way to become informed is to listen, think, and ask more questions. You're not expected to know everything; after all, you're new to this game. People will understand that and be eager to share their knowledge with you.
Be clear about what you're looking for or wanting from them.
Let people know that you're seeking information or ideas - and be specific so they know what to give you. If you want to find out about a certain opportunity or maybe even land an "informational interview" with them or a fellow company member, just come right out and make this known. Sometimes it can be a challenge to get family members or friends to see you in this new and professional light. This is why you have to be even more up-front about what you'd like to happen in your career and how they might be able to help get you started toward that goal.
Leave no stone unturned.
Even if talking to a certain person seems like a stretch, try it anyway. You never know who they will know and can connect you to. If they don't know anyone, they'll tell you that, so you can move on. I suggest casting a wide net. It will help you uncover any available resource.
Holidays, family reunions and summer barbecues all present a great opportunity to connect with the older generation who just might be seasoned professionals in your field. Before your next family gathering, do your homework. Ask your parents what their brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles do for a living. Pose the same question to your best friends. When you get to the party, be prepared to ask questions of those who've "been there and done that" in your industry... and get ready to make some career connections while learning something new.
Copyright 2008 Hallie Crawford. All rights reserved.
About the Author:
Help your college grad get on the right track!
Certified Career Coach Hallie Crawford specializes in helping recent college grads and boomerangs identify their ideal career path and make it happen. To schedule a and find out more about Hallie visit http://www.halliecrawford.com or contact her at 877-298-6444.
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