I’ve been in my career, as a full-time copywriter and freelance writer, for six years, and I still feel as if I have no strong connections. At this point, I sense my career has stalled, and not being able to network has held me back from moving forward.
I’ve tried networking before. While earning an undergraduate degree, I attended a networking seminar, and being that it was 2005, the speaker told us to “Contact experts at trade publications.” This befuddled me at the time: Why would someone with an established career want to even help, let alone respond to, an inquiry from a “lesser-than”? Isn’t networking a mutual give-and-take relationship?
Two years later, while earning a graduate degree, I spoke with a career counselor, who asked me to contact school alumni for “informational interviews.” A few responded to me, but from there, I didn’t know where to go. How do you keep them interested? What’s the protocol for developing a networking relationship?
By luck, I found a full-time job in my field, but in the four years I have worked there, I haven’t gone to a single networking or industry event. Where I work, you can only go to such events if you make sales for the company. I don’t have a sales personality or appearance, and I fear going to such events would make a negative impression for my workplace.
I don’t have the usual network of friends and family, either, and my coworkers are the gossiping type. Even though I have managed to get somewhere (and score freelance clients on occasion in my own time), this seems to be as far as I can get.
What is your advice for a person with zero connections to get started with networking? How do you get to events where you don’t have to represent a company? What’s your take on LinkedIn? And, once you have initially communicated with someone, how do you create a relationship?
“Contact experts at trade publications” was pretty cool advice in 1992, so it’s sad that someone told you to do that in 2005. That’s not too far from “Publish your AOL email address on the awning of your bakery.”
In this country, we really do sell people an education and then shove them out into the world with nothing else. When I was in college, it was common knowledge that our career counselors were good for herding people through the formalized hiring process for investment banking and consulting, and not good for much else. If anyone has worked with a college counselor who can tell you how to promote yourself through social media, or run a successful campaign on Kickstarter, or just be a freelancer in general (creating contracts, setting rates, collections), please, leave a comment. I’d love to hear about this mythical unicorn.