People who say that job-hunting is the worst job ever have not worked overnight in network news. As someone who has and who will never get those (doomed) years back, and as someone who has had both wonderful jobs and crap jobs, I can tell you that the worst job ever is having to wake up -- whether at 7:00 a.m. or 11:00 p.m. -- and realize you must go to a job that makes you wonder what kind of Nazi degenerate you were in a past life to qualify for this mishigas. I'm talking about those jobs that every morning make you seriously consider calling in sick. Or, faking your own death. Or crying. Or, all of the above. The worst job ever is the job you hate. Because that hate spills over into other aspects of your one and only precious life.
Job-hunting, on the other hand, while scary and intimidating should be exciting: play your cards right AKA create a strategy and you'll end up with a job that you love, a job that makes your friends on Facebook seethe with jealousy, as you brag about how blessed you are. #bonus The job you love is out there. But first you have to understand that you won't get that job waiting for someone else to make sense of your life. You'll get the job(s) you love when you decide that you are worth it.
So, let's get started, shall we?
Step 1: Identify what you like about your current job. Before you start ranting, here's my well-reasoned argument: Shut up, I don't care. Things are tough all over. I know there's something you like about the job, some basic skills, or knowledge or experiences you have acquired. Identify those because that's how you get started. Let's say you work in a law firm, focusing on bankruptcy. You hate the firm, the partners, your law school, your boyfriend and Yahweh for making you suffer... but you do find certain aspects of bankruptcy law interesting. Bueno! What exactly do you find interesting? Elaborate, please.
Step 2: Now, you're going to start researching all other -- in this instance -- firms that focus on bankruptcy law in your area. You can look in trade journals, law association websites, online, etc.. You also want to make sure these firms do the same things with bankruptcy law that you do. So now you have a list of firms that you know would be interested in your skills/experience/charm.
Step 3: Take that list, and attack your LinkedIn connections. Look for people who work at firms, both on your list and in general, focusing on bankruptcy law. Write out their names, their titles and how you are connected. Also, check in with your graduate and college alumni organizations, looking for alumni who work at these companies. (Those massive school loans you took out pay your alumni organizations' bills so politely insist that they do their job and help you. Politely.) On LinkedIn, post on schools' groups discussion-boards your name, and your interest in speaking with anyone who works in bankruptcy law in your area. Tell the nice people a little bit about yourself, your experience and your skills. Make it easy and worth their while to help you. Check in with ALL your organizations, from sororities to girl scouts to honor societies to book clubs to running clubs: these are ALL your networks. They're here to help if you know what you're looking for.
Step 4: This is an excellent time to revise your LinkedIn profile from the POV of bankruptcy law firms. You're about to start networking; that profile better be tight, kid. Check spelling, grammar, your headline, and your photo. Write a concise summary highlighting your experience, education, skills, awards, fraternities/sororities. Write a summary which explains, quickly and intelligently, what you've done and what you're looking for. Give HR people a reason to call you.
Step 5: Take those points you identified in step one, and start writing informational emails to all of your relevant connections, explaining, in the first paragraph, who you are, what your connection is, why you're writing and ask if you can meet up. Ask to buy them a cup of coffee. You want a long list because not everyone will respond. You want to make it clear what you want from them -- information, advice, suggestions on how to get into the firms -- because people work hard and have very little patience. But the more people you contact, the likelier you are to meet people who have been in your situation, and/or are impressed by your experience and try to help.
Step 6: When people say, "Sure, buy me some coffee," you need to show up dressed like an adult. You are auditioning for a role. Bring your business cards (name, email, phone) and a resume (only take out the resume if asked). Make sure you have researched the person sitting across from you. Here's a hint: people love to talk about themselves. (What a world!) So ask them some questions, be charming and you might be very surprised at how helpful people can be. Also, be ready to communicate your passion, your interest, and your experience in the subject at hand: bankruptcy law. Read some trade journals. Research some ideas. Give the person sitting across from you a reason for him/her to email their partner and say, "This person was pretty impressive; you should meet them." Send them a handwritten follow-up note if you really want them to remember you. And you do. Also, if you invite them out, you pay.
Step 7: Rinse and repeat. Oh, stop it. Yes, this process takes a while. Yes some people will waste your time. But guess what: networking was good enough for the Hohenzollern Dynasty, for the Romanovs... so I think it's good enough for you. You think that was royals did, for thousands of years, was not networking? I beg to differ. It was the epitome of networking: it was people helping their friends, their associates get jobs/titles/lands. It was people helping their friends get ahead and then both parties reaping the benefits! Networking is the way of the world; the sooner you give in and get good at it, the sooner you can be working at a job you love.
If you have other networking hints that have worked for you, I'd love to hear them! Tell me in comments or email me at email@example.com.