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Undiscovered Career Networking

Sipping coffee and searching the local newspaper for job openings just doesn’t cut it anymore. The best jobs aren’t found in the newspaper lying on your front porch or on online job listings. They aren’t found on company websites either. In fact, the auntie sitting across from you at the latest desi party could be the key to a new or fulfilling career.

It seems preposterous at first. But it’s true. The old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is especially relevant in today’s struggling economy. As the number of jobs shrink, employers are more anxious than ever to fill positions with qualified people. Therefore, if you use your network effectively, your chances of being hired increase by a multitude. In fact, a referred candidate has a 1 in 35 chance of being hired as opposed to a typical candidate, with no referrals, whose odds are lower: 1 in 500. If a valued employee is willing to take the risk to back you up as a candidate, employers will listen and take the chance. (http://jobsearch.about.com/od/networking/a/jobster.htm)

The most common question facing individuals today is: “how do I build my network?” The question should be instead: “who’s already in my network?” You may be surprised if you sit down and list the number of people you know with jobs in fields that you are interested in. That’s when the South Asian advantage comes in! South Asian parents have already built their own networks, and the parties that they drag you to may actually pay off. Many of the aunties and uncles, besides being the parents of kids you talk to during dinner time, are working professionals. And if they aren’t in the right field, inevitably, they may know someone’s brother’s cousin’s sister in law who might be able to throw in a good word for little Jiju (insert cringe here).

It is fair game to talk to them about your own career aspirations, especially if they ask you what you have been doing. Instead of blushing and mumbling a few choice words, seize the opportunity. Use an elevator speech. An elevator speech is between 30-60 seconds and highlights important facts such as what you’re interested in doing, what your major is and what your work experiences are. Be sure that your elevator speech centers around what you want to do. For instance, if you’re interested in becoming a paralegal, talk about the fact that you were part of Mock Trial, not that you paint in your spare time.

In case cavorting around the South Asian party circuit doesn’t appeal to you, Linkedin www.linkedin.com is another phenomenal resource. Known as the first professional networking site of its kind, Linkedin enables you to add individuals you know or contact individuals who are within the same groups that you belong to. These groups include college alumni groups, common professional certifications, common interest groups, etc. Yes, you can add uncles and aunties too. As well as your cousins, friends, and co-workers.

Generally, there is a fear, especially by women, to network. It sounds like “schmoozing” and seems “unethical.” However, remember that networking is a two way street. In essence, it’s a relationship. It’s an investment. Do not meet someone, get their card, send an e-mail, and be done with it. That is the “schmoozing” that many women fear. Instead, send e-mails or make calls every once in awhile, reinforcing your interest in a field or a job. Give back. If the aunt or uncle wants to know the recipe for the chicken masala you made, give it to her and also add another recipe for chick peas that you think that she might like. Again, networking is a two way street.

Overall, networking is not about building relationships. It’s about sustaining them. It will take time to nurture a relationship, and you need to view the relationships that you create through networking as investments. And even if you don’t get that prized job even after networking with it, at least you’ve made a friend. Who knows? In the future, that person will think of you for something and e-mail/call you about it.

Networking yields amazing benefits. What I personally am surprised at while networking is how willing people are to help you, if you just ask. I’ve gotten two page responses from asking a single question. I’ve gotten 20 references to contact when asking for one. And if they say no, what’s the worst that could happen? Thank them and move on. However, it’s important to maintain that good relationship, just in case you need to ask for help later on.

Some Dos and Don’ts When Using the South Asian Circuit

DO come up with a sixty second elevator speech. Even if the person knows you forever, it’s doubtful that they know your resume. Someone, especially again if they’re South Asian, will probably ask you what you’re doing or up to. At that point, seize the moment and say “Well, I’m actually looking for a job. As you might know, I’m an Econ major …I worked at [ ] and here are my strengths…”

DO take up people on offers to “shop around” your resume. Be sure to make sure you resume is updated, and send a thank you note along with the resume.

DO remember that networking is a two-way street. You will be asked to help other people just as they have helped you. Try not to refuse requests for help, especially if what they’re asking is reasonable.

DO NOT ask upfront for a job. Not only is it tactless, it actually lowers your chances of getting a job.

DO NOT ask your parents to intervene for you. You should ask the uncle/aunt/cousin’s friend for help or advice directly.

DO NOT expect results overnight. You will not find the perfect job in a week. But if you keep on networking for years at a time, someday, somehow it will pay off. — Sharmeen Noor

5 thoughts on “Undiscovered Career Networking

  1. wow! great advice. instead of feeling old and moping at those family parties, maybe i should get to know those aunties and uncles…

  2. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on.You have done a marvellous job!

  3. I have been looking for detailed info on this subject. Very well written and interesting article. Thanks, I will spread the word!

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