I'm not the most extroverted person in the elevator. I typically don't start up conversations with strangers. And on the rare occasion that I do, I don't ask a lot of personal questions. I don't even ask a lot of personal questions from non-strangers.
Thus, needless to say, the whole networking thing, as it applies to job hunting, is entirely above and beyond my current skill set. I've tried it - yep, given it the good old college try. But I guess I just don't have the appearance of a person worth giving leads to.
And that is the main reason why last week sucked so much. Even people I consider friends were very vague and non-helpful to my inquiries. That makes me sadder than I can say. Besides, schmoozing makes me feel greasy all over, and sad PLUS greasy is not a good combination.
So, like most people of my generation, I went to Google for some help. All the advice sites I've sought give pretty much the same tips on networking.
ehow told me to:
a) Use social networking sites. CHECK! See links to my facebook, twitter, tumblr, flickr, and LJ on the side bar.
b) Dress your professional best. This is subjective, but I consider it a CHECK! Take a look at my "teacher style" tagged posts for evidence.
c) Join professional groups such as Toastmasters, or your local chamber of commerce. NEED TO DO. Although, I'm not sure how helpful business people would be in providing leads to education jobs. I'm willing to give it a shot anyway.
d) Carve out time for networking. NEED TO DO. Did I mention I'm an introvert? As such, I would much prefer to cuddle with my rabbit and watch Netflix movies on a Friday night than go gadding about to crowded, overheated venues of alcohol and dimly lit rooms. I've got to figure out a way to break this daunting step (to me) into manageable pieces.
networkbetter.com told me to:
e) Give and receive "qualified referrals." Referrals to what? I can recommend good books. I know some movies worth seeing. I'm pretty sure that's not what they mean. Maybe referrals to things that are more specific to teaching, like lesson planning materials. Or things like the Multicultural Conference. NEED TO DO.
f) Write thank you letters. Oh yes. I excel at writing letters and sending stuff through snail mail. CHECK! Now, if only I had more people to write thank you notes to...
Even Seventeen magazine had some tips for me:
g) Be real. CHECK! Been happening since I turned 23 and got over my angst-y, teenaged, college-spoiled self. I love this aspect of getting older: less faked copying, more real being.
h) Volunteer. CHECK! Well, it might not hurt to do more of this, especially when my volunteer work is focused entirely on church-related things. Are you ready for me, local SPCA? I'll be coming for your puppies and kitties next!
i) Develop a good memory of names, faces, etc. Oh good Lord, I suck at this. It took me four weeks before I to learn my 12th grade tutee's mother's name. Whom I kept mixing up with the grandmother. It took me an additional two weeks to learn the father's name. I have no idea who her little brother is. NEED TO DO.
j) Don't ask yes or no questions. Uh, hello? I'm a teacher of elementary school kids. Solid CFU skills included - which means I NEVER ask yes or no questions without having a follow-up for more clarification. CHECK!
k) Follow-up, including getting their contact info. NEED TO DO. My socially anxious self is entirely too ready to jump up and leave after networking opportunities, hence I forget to even ask for a phone number or email. Step One: resist the urge to bolt! Step Two: think of reasons to ask someone for their contact info (i.e. sending them photos taken, links they would appreciate, calling to confirm later). Step Three: be brave enough to use those reasons.
Wow. Looking back at this post, it really seems like I'm a huge wimp at interpersonal relationships. I'm really not - I have personality/gifts/career guidance tests to prove it. I do have friends, and I work well with people. I guess the first hurdle is the biggest.