Dear Mr. Walberg:
I read with interest your recent column about networking, and I have a question. I am a recent fashion merchandising graduate, and am interested in investigating career opportunities either at the fashion design level or as a buyer of designer clothing at the retail level. My resume is strong, I think, and I have posted it on major websites. I am also researching and contacting employers that I can find, but I am weak with networking contacts since I am just out of college. How do I get started? — R.S. via email
That’s a good question, and a normal concern for a recent graduate.
First, don’t worry about a potential network contact’s job. It doesn’t matter if they know anyone in fashion merchandising. Just spread your name and interest around and see where they land. You will be surprised where it can lead you, and how it can eliminate competition for jobs.
After exhausting your friends, relatives, and next-door neighbors, borrow a trick from the life insurance industry. Make a list of everyone you know — at least everyone you think you can contact — to tell about your career interest. That includes friends of parents, previous teachers, coaches, internship supervisors, your minister, priest or rabbi, etc. Write the names and addresses down and shoot for a number, like 50. Ask your parents and friends to help with the list.
If you feel comfortable enough to telephone a person, do it. Tell them you are networking, and see if they know at least three people they can add to your list.
If you feel more comfortable emailing, do it that way. If using snail mail, and including a printed resume feels better, do that.
Just make contact, and ask for three referrals. You might not get any, and you might get more, but I can tell you that it works.
Most people are more than happy to help because it makes a person feel good to help someone out. You might, in some cases, ask to have coffee with them, or stop by the house, or forward a copy of your resume. Be specific about your interests so they understand, and show confidence in yourself and determination to follow your interests. Be a salesperson, and of course I’m asking you to ... Do what others fail to do!
• Marvin Walberg is a job-search coach based in Birmingham, Ala. For contact information, see marvin-walberg.com.