Mary Kate:

I’ll bet you’re sitting there reading this thinking, “Oh no, is this another post about networking?” Well, it is and it isn’t. During my transition, I had no idea what networking really was for and how to go about doing it. I was an academic and the only networking I had ever done was with fellow students and professors; I didn’t know the first thing about professional networking. But once I realized that networking is really just connecting with people, it didn’t seem so overwhelming. I learned that by talking to people and learning from their experiences, I would be able to form a better idea of what I wanted in my own career (because, let’s face it, I had no idea). There I was, fresh out of graduate school, trying to turn my life in a different direction after realizing that I didn’t want to go for my doctorate and I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even really know what field I wanted to be in and I felt lost.

The following is a snapshot of three different people (technically four, but read on) I communicated with in order to get helpful advice about transitioning into a full-time job:

  1. The first thing I did after graduation was set up an appointment at the Ursinus College Career Center in order to figure out which fields I could apply to with my skill set. I told the woman I met there about my interests, work I had done in the past, and about my experience with graduate school. From an hour long conversation, she was able to suggest that I apply to non-profits, publishing companies, higher education, and more. She made me slow down and really think about what interested me. She also shared a bit of her background so that I could see how she became a college career counselor. I appreciated how approachable she was and how interesting she made the appointment. I felt like I was learning about myself as I was learning about her and her experiences. From that appointment, I was able to realize that I should apply to jobs that interest me, not just jobs that might pay a lot or be close to home. Ultimately, I needed to be interested in the work if I was going to be happy doing it.
  2. Later that summer, I emailed a favorite professor of mine from Ursinus from whom I felt comfortable asking for advice. She had worked for a few years before pursuing her doctorate and eventually becoming a professor, so I felt that she would understand my position more than most. And she really did: her advice helped me more than I realized at the time. I described to her my uncertainty about what I wanted to do with my life. She replied in the best possible way: if you are unsure about pursuing your doctorate, you’ll never make it. Go out, work, see what’s out there; then, if you really miss academia, then you’ll be in the right frame of mind to go for your doctorate. She said that life wasn’t black and white and that nothing is forever–I didn’t have to choose my forever CAREER PATH right then and there. She made me feel confident in my indecision and comfortable with looking around for what was best for me.
  3. Finally, my mother was speaking to a neighbor of hers one day when he mentioned that he has two nieces working in New York as marketing professionals–one at a publishing company and one at a big financial firm. He offered to tell them about me and he gave my mother their email addresses. So, I got over the awkwardness of not knowing who these women were and wrote to them: I told them who I was and my predicament. And I asked the only thing I could ask them for: advice. How did you get started? How did you become successful? Do you love what you do? And I received very down-to-earth, honest answers from both of them. They both were very happy in their careers and they said they both worked very hard for them. One suggested that I beef up my presence on social media, especially with a degree in English–social media and blogging can go a long way. The other told me about her experiences from college and up until now. She told me the mistakes she made and the things she did right. I am still grateful to these two women for their honesty and their openness.

I believe most people are like that–open and honest. I think most people want to help others, especially if they themselves have a career in which they are happy and fulfilled. I think that people are your greatest asset in a career search, especially people you admire. I reached out to people and asked a lot of questions and received a lot of answers and advice that I was able to sift through. Ultimately, I made my own decisions about the type of job search I conducted but I was able to do so with a lot of information because of the people I talked to. Don’t be afraid to be friendly, ask questions, and get answers!

Does anyone else have helpful networking (or reaching out) stories?

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Image by buddawiggi on Flickr: http://tinyurl.com/mjd3u94

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