Reaching in the Right Direction

January 23, 2011

Networking

Gail Nicholson Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
www.gailnicholson.com
503-227-4250
Gail is passionate about working with individuals who want to explore and connect with a more authentic sense of self as a basis for defining their lives, work lives and roles in the larger community. She offers a blend of personal and career counseling, as she has found that attending to personal issues or mental health concerns can reduce barriers to moving forward. Gail works with clients on defining purpose and direction, handling stress and tackling career exploration, job search and small business start-up.

Career Transition: Reaching in the Right Direction

When was the last time you sat down with someone who could answer your questions about a career path?  A career you are exploring in hopes of connecting with people who share your vision and passion, people who are doing the work you would love to be involved with, given a chance.  From solar tech to social media marketing to running a charter school, if you’re feeling far away from your potential true love, get closer.

Use the fresh energy of the new year to search out, talk and connect with people.  Usually the most successful “informational interviews”, as they’re called, are with one person at a time.  It’s where you get in touch and talk or email with individuals experienced in a profession that is a match for your deeper interests, values and goals, preferably in person.  (Oh, the magic possible between human beings connecting around shared purpose.)

If you’re wondering how your new career idea is going to turn out, how your general notion is going to become a specific job offer, pick up the phone.  If you’re overwhelmed by questions and concerns to the point where you feel stuck, try to think of some one who may be able to help, and reach out.  And continue to reach out.  Frequent contact with the right people at the right time, in conjunction with your ongoing effort is what will move you and your new worklife forward.

Talk with those that have inside and current answers to your questions about the work you are considering.  You can learn how they got started, and get their advice on how you could work/volunteer/intern your way in.  You can ask them about needed training, education and local market trends.  And don’t forget to ask if they know other people you could talk to.  The more folks you talk to, the more complete your information.  Begin to build a network of professionals in your field of intrigue, one of who may have a job lead for you, or tips on hot conferences, luncheons, meetings and holiday events to check out in your area.

Introduce yourself and briefly explain your connection.  Tell them why it will be so valuable for you to speak with them for even twenty minutes.  Offer to email questions ahead of time. And always ask what you can do for them.  You may have dug up information in your search that will be valuable to those long involved in the field.

You could also send a mass e-mail to all appropriate friends and acquaintances in your life and work life; ask for contacts, leads, a resume review or information about this new line of work you are wondering about.  Ask them for connections in a particular company you’ve had your eye on.  In return, make yourself available to others who might need information or support from you.  Encourage your peers to be as available as they can.  We can all help each other and ourselves tremendously in this down economy by providing direction and introductions when and wherever possible.  Many folks getting jobs these days can thank their existing networks, along with being the perfect fit.  More than ever it’s who you know, and who they might know.

So sit back, and try to remember any personal or professional contacts from the past.  Start looking up colleagues, neighbors, friends, family, co-workers, ex-co-workers, former classmates and bosses you’ve stayed in touch with, camping buddies, preachers, rabbis, cops, career counselors from school and parents of your children’s friends.  Go see your hairdresser or barber, linger with bus and cab drivers, your son’s teacher, a masseuse or yoga instructor.  Spend more time at the gym.  Question your business librarians at Portland Central or any neighborhood library.  Campaign for a local politician or cause.  Hang out at the closest farmer’s market or food cart court.    Chat up roommates, retail clerks and waitresses; find out who they might know.  Just ease yourself into it, talking face to face, if you’re not doing it already.

Who did you run into at the grocery store last week?  Think of all the people you come in contact with on a regular or irregular basis……Everyone counts as a possibility. Consider who might know someone with some coveted information and give him or her a call.  It’s ok if you’re scared, you’re just getting started.  Ask to take ‘em to coffee or see if they just want to chat by phone.  Create a shared opportunity for the two of you to check in about how life and career life are going.  Continue to reach out and connect.  Nurture your personal and professional relationships throughout your working life.  Let’s all extend ourselves towards each other, get closer to what’s important and to work we love.

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