Networking has become a crucial part of pursuing a career -- and it makes sense: many jobs are never posted anywhere and are filled through recommendations and people who know someone who knows someone. Finding a job is mainly about who you know and who knows what about you.
But what if you are moving to a new city or want to change careers and don't know anyone and nobody who matters knows you? Networking becomes exponentially harder -- but not impossible. The bad news: You have to start from scratch. The good news: You have to start from scratch.
A fresh start means that you have nothing to lose. You cannot only try a new haircut and outfits, no; you can try new elevator pitches and new ways to start conversations with strangers.
Making a Fresh Start
Once you have made the decision to change careers or move to your favorite city you have to make a plan. Know what you want and what you need to do to get there. Memorize a clear and concise elevator pitch and don't be afraid to pitch it even if you live on the first floor.
The Internet will be your new best friend. Living in a time dominated by Social Media, new contacts or at least information are often just a few clicks, links, pokes and tweets away -- so before you start your journey to becoming a Networqueen, you have to do some homework.
Update your resume and your online presence so they represent you and your (new) goals. Google yourself and see what future employers will find -- make sure your online presence complements your professional appearance.
Master the delicate art of bragging -- after all, if you don't talk about yourself, who will? Don't be arrogant but be proud of your achievements and make sure people know about them. You don't have to rent a billboard, but casually mentioning your fabulousness will work wonders.
Follow potential future employers on LinkedIn and Twitter and like them on Facebook. That way, you will not only get information and updates easily, you will also have the chance to get in touch: You can like their posts, retweet or make comments. Don't go overboard but like, link and follow with low-key determination.
Update your LinkedIn profile. Including a professional and current photo). LinkedIn is a great tool to initiate contact and become visible for future employers, recruiters and your friends who all have their own network. Join groups and participate in discussions buy only follow a handful of groups so you can make quality contributions.
Tweet. Twitter is an easy way to start communicating with strangers. The conversation might not go beyond a couple of tweets, but at least you will have a name or a topic to casually mention if you apply for a job at that company.
Let your network know. Look through your (online and offline) address book, send out a short email about your plans and ask your friends if they have any advice. Tell them that you would appreciate it if they could keep their eyes and ears open: It's amazing how often seemingly "random" people know someone who might be crucial to your job search. You can send them the link to your LinkedIn profile or attach a short profile so they know what you are looking for.
Ask for advice. People love to talk about themselves. If you ask a friend or someone you admire about their experience, they will most always be willing to help you. Tell them how you got their name or email address so they don't think you're stalking or spamming them.
Volunteer. If you lack experience in your field, start volunteering and take small steps, such as starting a blog. In some areas it's easier to volunteer or keep yourself busy in your spare time -- but a unique and creative approach will definitely get people talking and open doors.
Socialize. Attend networking events, seminars or conferences; join clubs or associations. You will meet new people, get new opportunities and have a chance to wear all your new dresses. And it really can't hurt.
Once you have made that initial contact, you have to take the relationship offline. Ask the person if they want to have coffee. It will take courage, they might be too busy or you won't get anything out of it, but you have nothing to lose. After all, it's just coffee. Ultimately, meetings with real people will strengthen your network and make you more memorable. And if your targets are too far away to meet in the flesh, meet on Skype.
Once the relationship moves to real life, it's important to have professional-looking business cards. If you attend network events, it's an easy way to exchange contact information and it's usually an invitation to follow up.
So always follow up and always say thank you. People like to help but they also like to know that their help was appreciated. A quick thank you card or email is an inexpensive way to leave a priceless impression. Stay in touch and maintain your network. This might mean writing a lot of holiday cards but it will be worth it. Having said that, always return the favor. If someone needs your help, reciprocate. You know exactly what they are going through, don't you?
Last but not least: Be patient and politely persistent. Follow up if you feel they forgot you. Chances are they are just busy -- and hey, maybe they need an assistant?
Isabelle is from Switzerland (not Sweden) and currently lives in the Midwest. She went to Film School in Denmark and Canada, studied Sound Design and worked for various Swiss Banks - and yes, she loves chocolate! Isabelle is studying advertising at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (Online Division) and is preparing to take over the advertising world. She's a Marketing Assistant by day, a student by night and loves to write, drink coffee, run, and watch movies on weekends. If you want to see how what she can do with 140 characters, follow her on Twitter @isabellesagt