For some people, there’s something about hearing the word “networking” that sends them into fight-or-flight mode: “Nope. No way. I can’t network. If I have to network to find a job, I guess I won’t be finding a job. Ever.”
We don’t blame you if you’re not convinced of the awesome powers of networking yet; “networking” definitely has some negative connotations to it. It summons visions of awkward “networking events” where you’re supposed to meet strangers and strike up conversations out of thin air. To some, it refers to insincerity, “using” people to get ahead, and just being plain uncomfortable. To many of us English majors, this is NOT what we signed up for.
But as many seasoned professionals will tell you, networking is incredibly important when it comes to developing and growing a successful, rewarding career. Networking can help you score interviews, provide unique opportunities, get a foot in the door at a company you want to work at, expose you to freelance gigs, meet some awesome people, and sooo much more! (Want to jump straight to job search advice? Check out our ULTIMATE guide!)
When should I network?
ALL. THE. TIME. While you’re in high school, when you're in college, when you’re unemployed, when you’re happily employed. When you need a job ASAP or are desperately unhappy at a current position and looking for a new job… it’s too late. (Although late is better than never…) Ok, maybe that was a little dramatic. We're just trying to stress that you need to think ahead when it comes to building your network.
Networking doesn’t have to be awful!
To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of people and places to network with. Implementing some of these ideas will come more naturally than others, but whether or not you have a job, we encourage ALL English majors to build up their networks of likeminded individuals no matter where they are in their career!
Here’s our 8 ideas for people and places to network with:
One of the benefits of going to college includes the people you meet there. Your peer group in school can be one of the most valuable networks you build. While other English majors are technically your post-grad competition, they’re also your allies! Let’s say one of your friends gets hired, and they hear the company needs another copywriter. Boom! You not only get a hot job tip, but you have an internal referral, too!
Of course, making friends with people outside of your major is also important. Business students go on to work at and start businesses, and they all need writers and people with top-notch communication skills. Chemistry students go on to work for companies that need writers, or people to write grants for research. See how this works?
And of course, it’s important to pick the brains of your professors and career center staff! If you have a dialogue going with them before it's time to hit the pavement and they're being bombarded by other similar requests, it'll be that much easier for them to be on the lookout for opportunities that might suit you.
Another excellent benefit of your college degree includes the alumni network you automatically inherit from your alma mater. Many alumni remember what it was like to have just graduated, and that means many are happy to help when asked! Whether it’s giving some advice, a recommendation, or an actual job referral, connections with alumni can be incredibly valuable.
Your school might have an online networking system for you to connect with alumni, or you can see if your Career Center can connect you with someone who has experience in the type of career you may be interested in. LinkedIn also has an alumni feature where you can see who else went to your college, what jobs they have, and in some cases even what they majored in. Send them a message and start the conversation! Invite them to coffee and ask some questions. Speaking of LinkedIn…
LinkedIn is useful for connecting with alumni, but also others in your city and field or desired field. And by the way… if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, now is the time to make one! There are lots of job postings on LinkedIn, and it’s a good way to see what other professionals in your field are up to. Have a question? Take a chance and send someone a message! Be sincere, don't send out impersonal, form-like messages, and respect everyone's time.
For tips on how to create a stand-out resume and how to clean up your online presence, you’ll want to check out our book From Graduation to Career Ready in 21 Days: A Guide for English Majors. We show you exactly what to do!
4. Professional associations
This is a great way to get your toes wet as a young professional. Becoming a member of a professional organization/association can get you plugged into the scene in your desired field. Many organizations offer advice, feature job listings, connection opportunities and more! Many are free to join, so there’s no reason to not give it a try. Here are just a few that might interest you: Society of Professional Journalists, American Copy Editors Society, Society for Technical Communication, American Marketing Association, Social Media Professional Association, Grant Professionals Association.
5. Groups & clubs
Connecting with like-minded people doesn’t sound so bad, right? Becoming part of a local writing community or book club isn’t just a great networking opportunity—it’s a good motivation boost, too! Try Meetup.com to get started in finding a group—there are TONS! Not only are these types of groups good for meeting new people, but they can also help you hone your writing skills and stay sharp when you’re out of school.
6. Social media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads and other social media sites are filled with writers, readers, and other professionals who love learning, connecting and sharing. These all offer excellent ways to share your work, get noticed, and see what others are up too. Many connections and lifelong friends have been made using these sites—you just have to get creative and friendly!
7. Staffing agencies
Staffing agencies are companies that work to connect businesses with professionals, and there are several out there that specialize in working with creatives (including writers!). Staffing agencies come in all shapes and sizes; some are easy to sign up for and you can start browsing jobs right away, and others require in-person interviews. Some are specific to a particular city, and some can be used from anywhere in the world. We recommend meeting people in person whenever you can—making a personal and lasting connection does wonders when you're looking for a job! Agencies will sometimes host networking events or free classes, and this is another way to be the first to hear about new opportunities and meet like-minded professionals.
8. Professionals in other fields
Like we mentioned in the "College" category, it can be beneficial to network with those outside of your usual sphere of connections. For example, professionals like graphic designers, videographers, photographers, and web designers often work on projects that need—you guessed it—writers and editors! Business owners need people to write press releases, website copy, and marketing materials. Nonprofits need grant writers and communications officers and savvy copywriters. The list goes on and on! While this particular bullet point could kind of say "Everyone With a Job," we only share this to get you thinking in new ways about what "networking" can be.
Want more job search advice?
In our book From Graduation to Career Ready in 21 Days: A Guide for English Majors, we show you:
- how to find the right jobs to apply for
- what you need to know about marketing yourself online
- how to make yourself a more appealing candidate
- what to do after you’ve received a job offer
...and everything in between.
This simple, detailed guide is packed with the information and resources English majors need to successfully navigate the job search process in 21 days! CLICK HERE to download your FREE chapter!