Career Change: Build Connections in Your New Chosen Field
A recent Forbes article — Networking For a Career Change — Seven Contacts to Prioritize — notes that "changing careers often means changing your network." Because not all contacts represent equal opportunities, it’s important to prioritize the networking opportunities that will put you in touch with the right links to your new field.
Seek out “Connectors”
Forbes highlights the importance of 'Connectors', i.e. the well-connected, extroverted people who seem to have a grasp of what's going on in multiple circles around them. These people are assets to you, because they might know someone — or know someone who knows someone — and can put you in touch with a contact in your new chosen field.
Other key players to seek out can include experienced professionals, recruiters, industry analysts, media, academics, and entrepreneurs. Find them on LinkedIn and subscribe to their newsletters. You can even glean information by following them on Twitter. Note what events they attend, which articles they post, and what other handles they frequently re-tweet or follow.
Look for established organizations
A professional association can also be a boon to building connections. You can benefit from introductions via an established, structured organization. Look for associations that relate to your career field and see if they have any events open to the public. As Forbes points out, membership staff's job is to encourage membership — so they are likely to be inclusive and helpful. They can also advise if this particular organization is not a good fit for you, so you can stay focused on your ultimate target. Association membership staff is a great source for finding other helpful resources.
Leverage your alma mater
Check in with the career services department, even if it's been a while since you were in school. Many schools support and encourage alumni networking — which can include member directories, referrals, and even professional training. Some organizations include articles about alumni entrepreneurs and business professionals in their quarterly publication, which can be another great way to find out if any of your classmates have become leaders in your career of choice. When you do land that new position, don't forget to update your alma mater to pay it forward and keep your directory entry current.
If you're fortunate to have a class reunion on the horizon, think of it as practice for formal networking events. Because you already have something in common with other attendees, there's no need to worry about a cold open. As we mention in our article Tips for Better Networking, there are many untapped connections all around you. If a former classmate happens to be a specialist in your field of interest, ask some open-ended questions to get them talking. Once you uncover what you have in common, ask for some recommendations. As long as you're a polite listener and don't make the conversation all about you, you can gain insight, gather background information, and even find out some 'next steps' to take. If you really hit it off, make sure you follow up with your contact information. Your former classmate may keep you in mind for future job possibilities.
Check in with colleagues and peers
Know someone who also recently switched career paths? Peers who have recently made a similar leap from one industry to another are important connections too, even when their destination industry is different from yours. In addition to providing emotional support and insight, the lessons your peers learned while navigating their transition may be universal — so listen in and see what you can learn from their process.
Finally, don't overlook the importance of the people in your network (and circle of friends) who support you and cheer you on — regardless of their industry. Positivity and encouragement can be instrumental in keeping you on track when the going gets rough. To succeed, you must believe you can attain your goals, and it helps to be surrounded by people who believe in you too.
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