What No One Tells You About Networking
“You are moving where?” my mom asked, staring at me in disbelief as I stood there in the kitchen. My dad, never one to hold his tongue, was quiet for a moment – it was like a scene from Final Jeopardy, waiting to hear what he thought of such a daring move. Finally, he chimed in, “so how do you plan on doing that?”
Truthfully, I had no answers to give them, which was made quite obvious from the way I was picking imaginary lint off my shirt. I knew what they were thinking: her head is in the clouds, this is just an idea she is throwing out at us, maybe she is delirious, and so on and so forth. Two months later, here I am sitting at my desk of my 4th floor apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. I was not joking.
So, how did I get here? The short answer is networking, and I really wish it were that simple of a concept – but it is not.
Everyone writes about how important networking is, but from a lot of the articles I have read no one has actually walked me through what really happens. They make you think it is automatic, that every time you email a prospect you will land an interview, just like that. Wrong.
It is true, you meet a lot of people, and these people can lead you to job opportunities – but they can also point you down a path that leads nowhere. You will realize that there are people out there who do not want to give you a chance or take a few seconds to email you back. The cold hard truth is, not everyone has the time or patience to read a resume and give advice. It is annoying and discouraging, but it does get easier. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become asking for and achieving what you want.
I came to New York City for career opportunities and began my quest to move the first week of April. It is now mid-June, so even though this transition did happen rather quickly, it was no walk on the beach. Take my networking timeline for instance:
First Week of April:
My mentor was born and raised in Manhattan, so she knew a lot of people in the area. Even though a lot of these people were not in the fashion or entertainment industries, I still received good advice: what neighborhoods I should move to (and avoid), subletting at an apartment until I could move on my own, etc. One connection offered to have me stay in her apartment for a month, but that was too long for me to wait – I thankfully declined. A lot of times, all you get out of networking is just advice.
At some point, it finally occurred to me that I had some connections in New York. At my last job, I was doing media work for a friend at another company in New York City. Through LinkedIn I asked if there were any openings at her organization or if she knew of anyone looking for a roommate. She told me that they just hired someone for a marketing position, but that one of her good friends living in Hoboken needed a roommate. An hour later, she introduced me to her friend via email (I did not hear back until early May because she was traveling internationally). She emailed me back and I made plans to see her Memorial Day weekend to check out the apartment – living situation was solid. Finally, some luck!
First Week of May:
In the midst of all the craziness, I was still trying to get a job lined up for when I moved. My mentor introduced me to another one of her connections, one who allegedly had all the inside information on fashion jobs. She asked for my resume, I sent it over to her, then two weeks went by, which at that point she sent me a job application for Oscar De la Renta. She had no affiliation with the company or with anyone who worked there, but I applied anyway. I never heard back. My mentor then suggested I try emailing one of her friends from high school who now works for Estee Lauder. I emailed him asking not for a job, but for advice on how he got started in the business. This time, I made the email more about getting to know him rather than trying to make it all about me (even though it really was about me). No response, yet again.
With no such luck from any of the connections I made, I decided to try my luck with some staffing agencies. Out of the six I emailed, only one got back to me; I spent a good hour on the phone with a woman who after going over my extensive background, tells me that they did not place people in New York, but wondered if I would consider going to Illinois for some work? Apparently, “I am moving to New York” really meant “Chicago sounds great.” Sigh. At the end of the call, she gave me an email address of a friend of hers who had her own business in the fashion industry and suggested that I reach out to her. I did just that: I emailed the woman my resume and in the subject line I put, “connecting through (insert name here).” And once again, I kid you not – no response. But, it happens.
Sometimes, it does not matter who you are or who you know — there are just some people that do not care nor have the time of day for you. Some people may be happy to help and be a wealth of information (like the girl who told me which neighborhoods to avoid), and some may not be of any help at all (like the staffing agency offering work in Chicago). This is going to happen to you at some point and it is important to expect this when networking. Remember, networking should never have an end point. We start networking in order to look for a job, and most people assume that it ends there – it does not. When you get your next job, it is vital to nurture these networking relationships, past and present, in order to stay in the loop. More importantly, you may need these people again someday if you wind up looking for a new job.
As for me? I network every single day – I am always talking to people. I go out with my roommate and some of her friends for dinner in the city, drinks, yoga, art shows, what have you. During conversation, the topics, “where are you from?” and “what do you do for a living?” will always come up. When they do, be prepared to give your 30 second elevator pitch. You never know, your new friends may have openings at their jobs that you may be a great fit for.
And if you need any further encouragement, I suggest you watch “League of Their Own” and fast forward to when Tom Hanks yells about how it’s “supposed to be hard.” This is not baseball, but everyone is looking to make a metaphorical home run somewhere.