My Five Week Networking & Job Blitz
A little over a year ago I found myself in uncharted territory. I had recently completed my master’s degree in nonprofit management and was looking to change careers from the faith-based nonprofit sector, where I had been for five years, to the general nonprofit sector and I didn’t know where to begin.
I began meeting with a family friend who became my career coach. Through her support and “assignments,” I started the craziest five weeks of my life which I now call my “five week networking blitz.” At the end of the five weeks I had met with 25 nonprofit professionals, applied for ten jobs, had three interviews and took a new position. My career search had become my full-time job.
As I look back on my five week networking blitz, there are six takeaways which made me successful in my career search.
You are looking to make connections not just get a job
Yes, the end goal is to find a job but don’t expect every conversation to be about getting a job. Not everyone is hiring but the connection you are meeting with may know about an opening. You are looking to build your “black book” of nonprofit contacts. People you can reach out to when you are struggling with something on the job and people who begin to think about you when a job opening occurs. These connections will be partners throughout your professional career.
Make a list of your nonprofit connections
Make a list of all of your nonprofit connections with their organization, position, phone number, email and mailing address. Highlight contacts who will be most beneficial to your search.
When first sitting down it may seem like your list is going to be short, but think about everyone you interact with. These people can include classmates, past colleagues, someone you met through YNPN Denver, board members, or organizations at which you volunteer. Another challenge would be to add people who work at your “dream” organization. This may be a stretch, but remember, you are only looking to make a connection, not get a job offer.
Ask for an informational meeting
Once you have come up with your list of nonprofit professionals, begin setting up informational meetings with these individuals. Once again, you are looking for information which will help you professionally. If you know you are looking to move from programming to development, meet with a development director and ask questions about what working in development looks like and how you can break into the field.
Remember, people love to talk about their jobs and why they do it. You are interviewing them and you are telling them about you and what type of position you are looking for. At these informational meetings also ask them for some of the best resources they have used in their own profession.
If you meet them for coffee or lunch, offer to pay. Don’t forget, they are taking time out of their schedules to meet with you and offering to pay shows you value the conversation.
Ask for two additional connections
At each informational meeting ask your contact for two additional contacts that may be beneficial for your job search. You are trying to spread your networking net as far as you can, but depending on your professional experience your initial net might be small. By reaching out to their contacts you are meeting with new connections that may have other leads. Instead of just you looking for a job you now have four people looking for opportunities.
From my initial list of 30 connections I ended up with a list of over 60 people. I am now connected to people whose paths I would never have crossed if I hadn’t asked for additional contacts.
Write a handwritten thank you note
This by far is the most important step to the networking blitz. You need to send a handwritten thank you note for your informational meeting. Why handwritten? You want to show that the conversation was valuable and deserves the time it takes to write a handwritten message. In the note write about the meeting, thank them for the connections (reminding them to send you their information if they haven’t given it to you) and write about something specifically that was talked about at the meeting. For example, if they said they are in the middle of a large fundraising event wish them luck.
Write the thank you note in the car right after the meeting and stick it in the mailbox the same day. By doing this you are making sure you cover everything you talked about but also show how important the conversation was for you.
At the end of the networking blitz follow up with all your contacts. Thank them again for their time, update them on any new developments and keep in touch with them sporadically throughout the year. Once again, these are not just contacts for the five weeks but contacts for the rest of your career. Just as fundraising professionals need to steward relationships, you need to steward relationships with your contacts.
Drop them a note around Thanksgiving thanking them for their help in your professional career. Email them about a job opening they might be interested in. When you change jobs, let them know.
At the end of the day, remember it is a two-way street. Right now you might need their help in finding a job but you want to be there for them when they need you.
Have you ever participated in your own networking blitz? What were some takeaways which may be beneficial for others? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.