How to Build Your Job-Hunting Network
Job hunting, how we loathe thee.
Hitting the beaten bath and searching for a decent job is especially difficult these days. This goes without saying because we see it all over the news and it’s a common topic of conversation everywhere. Unfortunately, the situation is not any different within the field of pharmacy.
(Image from www.businessinsider.com)
I could go on-and-on about why this is, but instead I’d rather talk about the most important tool I used to help me get through the job-hunting gauntlet: NETWORKING. I know, I know…we hear about networking all the time. We all have that one person in our lives who is always telling us, “You have to know somebody.” I hate to say it, but that person is right…sort of.
The person you need to know may not be somebody you know right now. That is why networking is so important and should be started as soon as possible.
The most difficult part of networking that I encountered was trying to figure out where to begin. There are countless books available describing the “hidden secrets” or “proven, effective methods” for networking, but honestly, establishing communication between people is different for everybody. I’m not the most outgoing person when you first get to know me and this is only because I want to get to know you first. This is why networking seemed so scary to me in the beginning. Therefore, I had to sit down, develop a plan, and jump right in to the hunt.
First, I made a list of all the pharmacies where I was interested in working. I started with the pharmacies where I previously worked and/or interned during college. NOTE TO STUDENTS AND INTERNS: A great way to start a contact list is to save the business cards of preceptors, school faculty, and pharmacy staff members you meet during your rotations. Utilize your school’s database of alumni as well. Some may not be very helpful, but I felt the majority were happy to assist me after graduating.
Next, I got a three-ring binder and filled it with plenty of notebook paper (I had a lot laying around after graduating college). I used the binder to keep track of all the occasions I contacted an individual. This was extremely helpful, because it was easy to lose track of who I contacted and when. At the top of each page I wrote the name of the company where the individual worked. Every time I e-mailed, called, or physically mailed something to a contact I recorded it on their respective sheet. In addition, I also recorded all of their replies. Sometimes I wrote notes or reminders on the sides of the pages and I made sure to go through all the pages at least once a day to remind me where I was within my networking agenda.
Now that I was organized and ready to start getting my hands dirty, I had to figure out the best way to contact individuals. I utilized e-mail as my main source of communication. I only called individuals if I had previously met the individual or if a person he/she is familiar with gave me the contact’s business number. People are less likely to return a missed phone call from somebody they do not know. The chances of the individual returning your call increase if you state the name of a mutual acquaintance within a voicemail or message for an assistant.
It’s very important to have a clear and simple e-mail address in order to contact potential employers. Create an online e-mail account (i.e. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc) and use it exclusively for your job search. I recommend creating an e-mail address that incorporates your name without any numbers, periods, or other characters. An address with no numbers looks more professional and you don’t want to risk the contact overlooking characters, such as a period, when using or recording your e-mail address. Within the contacts section of the account, I added the names, e-mails, phone numbers, and business addresses of all my potential contacts and continued to do so as my list of contacts expanded. This was another great way of keeping track of my contacts.
Now that I was organized and ready to start, I began e-mailing the contacts on my list. For individuals I haven’t met yet, I began each e-mail by explaining how I came into possession of their e-mail address. It helps the individual better understand where you’re coming from and helps prevent you from looking creepy.
“Mr. Smith was kind enough to give me your e-mail address and recommended that I contact you…”
“I was researching your pharmacy’s website and came across your e-mail address…”
The most important tip to remember when you’re networking during your job search is…DO NOT ASK IF THEY ARE HIRING! Asking if they are hiring puts the individual in an uncomfortable position. Instead, ask the individual if they have 5-10 minutes to spare to answer a few questions and perhaps give you some advice on how to proceed with your job search. I always initially offered to buy the individual a cup of coffee for a moment of their time.
The most frustrating part of networking is waiting for the replies and responses. Unfortunately, many of the individuals you reach out to will not reply back. Don’t let this discourage you! Stay persistent! If I didn’t receive a response within 2-3 days, I e-mailed the individual again and would refer to my previous e-mail(s) within the message.
“I am following up on an email I previously sent you on August 1st…”
Being persistent is good, because the individual may have simply overlooked your message. Plus, your persistence can be viewed as hard work and diligence which employers are always seeking in employees.
Now that your e-mails are out there and you’re building your network, make sure to check your e-mail account multiple times a day. You don’t want to miss any opportunities that come your way. It may take a couple days of responding back and forth before you and a contact are able to schedule a meeting in person or a phone call conversation.
Once you and a contact schedule a date and time to meet or speak you officially have yourself setup for an “informational interview.” An informational interview can be a great opportunity for you to ask questions to somebody in your field, plus it allows you time to practice your interviewing skills. I will go into more detail about informational interviews in a later post.
I hope this helps those of you who are actively job hunting or preparing to do so. It’s never too early to start building your network, therefore I recommend starting as soon as possible, even if you’re still in school or currently dragging through internships.