I've said this before: changing careers is not for the faint of heart or the person who's in a big rush! Megan, however, is making very good headway because she's learning that developing new contacts is key to her success.
Here are some of the smart networking choices she's making that you can make as well:
Megan has joined two professional associations here in Seattle that relate to her field of interest. They are well-attended and active communities, made up of new and seasoned professionals.
Rather than just attend a monthly lunch meeting, talk with two people and call it good, Megan is an active participant in these groups. She volunteers at events so she can help out and get to know some people in the group. She talks with the speaker at the end of the meeting and asks a couple of follow-up questions which leads to a conversation. She shows up to a special interest group (a small group that meets around a particular topic of interest) monthly.
As a result of her efforts she has a list of ten people to set up informational interviews with, has decided not to pursue a Master's degree in this field but rather earn a certificate in a specialty area, has learned some key tips on how to make her LinkedIn profile better, and has won the opportunity to be a consultant "intern" for three months.
Megan has given a lot of thought to what strengths and skills she'd like to leverage, what kind of an organizational culture attracts her and what kind of people she'd like to work with. She has a running list of questions she is not shy about asking that will help her understand what her next steps are in the research and job search process.
She is careful not to weigh any one person's comments too heavily but rather speak with many people and get a general picture from different perspectives. In this way she avoids being too swayed by one person's experience and can stick with the process.
Megan hadn't delved into LinkedIn very much before deciding to change careers, so she's taking time to develop her profile and to add connections to her network as she gets to know them. She has joined several LinkedIn groups and is participating in discussions. She has set aside a certain amount of time to look at the discussions so she can stay focused without letting too much time get away from her.
She's thinking about Twitter and how she might use that tool to help her achieve her goals. Rather than signing up for all the tools and groups out there, she's thinking about her goals and then deciding which tools can help her. And rather than simply joining LinkedIn, she's participating.
Megan is getting a lot of information and talking with a lot of people. She's developed a system that works for her to keep track of what she's learning, who she's talked to and when she wants to follow up with people.
She's a little old school and uses a spiral notebook and paper calendar, but she could easily keep notes electronically using Evernote, Jibber Jobber, or your basic spreadsheet.
Megan's networking efforts are leading to serendipitous opportunities, new professional relationships, and are are giving her more clarity about how she can enter a new field.
What networking strategies have worked for you?