Networking 101: All Choked Up

The new thing: I learned how to ask for help.

Here’s how it happened: After I got laid off from my job recently, I sent out loads of resumes in response to job listings. Though they were customized, keyword-happy things of beauty that detailed what a talented, totally fabulous writer and editor I am, the resumes generated limited interest. The way to land a job, everyone and their career coach told me, was to network.

So I sent out breezy emails announcing my employment eligibility to friends, friends of friends, college buddies, and former coworkers, some of whom I hadn’t been in touch with since Mark Zuckerberg was in preschool. But e-missives didn’t get me too far either. Apparently, emailing is considered the coward’s way of networking. To do it effectively, you have to use a live voice.

That’s when I found out that losing a job is hard, but networking, for me, is harder.

When you lose a job, it’s a quick process: A few (genuine or fake) sorrowful words from your employer, an awkward handshake, and a walk out the door. By contrast, networking is a daily saga of collecting names and contact information, getting your nerve up to call someone and, when it’s a total stranger, feeling your throat get tense as you spit out a few prepared opening lines (“This is Nancy Mattia, and our mutual friend Maria Von Trapp suggested I call you.”). Then you hold your breath and hope the person on the other end doesn’t slam the phone down.

I worry too much. Because instead of slams, I always get compassion, concern, optimism, advice, other networking leads. And, in some cases, job interviews and freelance assignments.

This talking thing actually works!

I’m getting better at it. A good deep breath and I’m on my way to the next long-lost friend/stranger/my gynecologist’s partner’s wife (it happened!).

If you get a call soon, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to offer me your wisdom.

Maria Von Trapp and I sincerely appreciate it.

5 thoughts on “Networking 101: All Choked Up

  1. I actually have recently had a hankering to call businesses and ask to talk to someone about their company–I think that it makes you stick out from the hundreds of emails that businesses get daily. Nancy, is this the kind of thing you asked for when you called companies? In addition to mentioning the mutual friend, of course.

    • I’ve never blindly called companies–I can’t imagine anyone would have the time or desire to talk to a total stranger about their company. I don’t think you’d get far with this approach, Jennifer. But if you really think that’s the way to go, though, I’d send the person an email first and mention that you’d like to set up a time to talk at their convenience. Just be sure to write a dynamic email that focuses on how you can contribute to the company’s success rather than focus on just your past accomplishments. Hope this helps, Jennifer. Good luck!

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