Networking, networking, networking! Every outgoing Smart Girl has dozens of ways to get professional and social connections. These girls have resumes loaded with position after position. But what about the introverts? The non-sorority girls? The first-generation Smart Girls without any relatives or family friends in their industry? You may feel at a disadvantage in the networking game, but with some work you can beat the networking game and boost your resume without using family friends or sorority alumni.
Consider Freelance Work
Don’t have the connections or networking confidence to approach a larger company or firm? Check your school’s job boards or local Craigslist for freelance gigs with individuals or small businesses. It may take an introduction to get in the door of that law firm downtown, but the solo practice down the street would probably consider you more personally. This works especially great for design, social media, public relations, marketing, and web design. There are always small local businesses looking to expand their brands and marketing. For example, if you find a busy stay-at-home mom selling handmade goods, you can offer to manage her Etsy or Facebook account. Websites like Fiverr and 99Designs offer a virtual marketplace of freelance projects for every skill level. Working freelance projects or personal assistant positions will give you great skills for your resume and could lead to more connections!
Start Your Own Project
Smart Girls Group CEO Emily Raleigh didn’t get hired to start SGG–she took it on as a personal project that grew into a full fledged business! Don’t underestimate the value of work just because it isn’t paid or you don’t have a traditional “boss”. You can start a blog, do a charity project in your neighborhood, or organize an event at your school. Resumes aren’t just for traditional jobs. If you have the opportunity to lead a project in your community, take it! You’ll meet potential connections for your next project and build your confidence. Plus, “Founder” and “Executive Coordinator” sound great on a resume–these positions will show your initiative and prove that you’re willing to work hard to get to the top.
Volunteer In Your Community
You’ll hardly ever need a connection to get a position as a volunteer! Many volunteer positions are non-competitive, but once you become established you’ll often have the chance to take on more responsibility. This can be valuable training for a “real” job and show future employers that you’re truly interested in your chosen field. Volunteering at a cause related to the industry you’re interested in will connect you with established professionals and build your knowledge base in the field. Consider tutoring in a subject related to your Smarts–for example, a girl interested in the tech industry could teach senior citizens how to use smartphones or tutor middle schoolers on basic coding skills. The inner satisfaction that comes with helping your community is just another bonus!
Yes, cold calling is the introvert’s nightmare! But if you can psych yourself up enough to do the legwork, you just might be rewarded with a dream position. Approaching a professional you’d like to work with shows initiative and puts you at a negotiating advantage. When you’re the one offering your Smarts, you present yourself as a person who has value and knows it, not just another intern. Browse a local directory or accrediting organization to find a list of professionals in your field. Make sure you research–don’t call a personal injury attorney when you should be targeting entertainment lawyers! Take a look at a potential employer’s website and biography so you can understand their needs and what you can offer them. Doing your research can also help you identify potential conversation starters–maybe you’re from the same town, or you share an alma mater. And if you can’t bring yourself to pick up the phone, you might be successful with a persuasive email. Even if a professional can’t offer you a position, they’ll often offer to pass your resume along.
Meet a Mentor
If you avoid networking sessions like the plague, you might benefit from a mentor. Reach out to a teacher or professor who likes your work and explain that you’d like to get job experience but have no connections. Everyone likes to feel needed, and if you show a genuine interest in a mentor’s work, they may reciprocate with an interest in your fledgling career. A mentor can serve as a middleman so networking and making new connections is less intimidating. If you seek out a mentor with a similar background (e.g. you’re both first-generation immigrants, or in minority groups at your institution) they can also give you valuable advice on how to navigate your field when you don’t seem to “fit”. While it may be intimidating to approach a teacher or professor as a mentor, the relationship doesn’t need to be formal. Start with genuine conversation and let yourself learn from an expert.
Boost Your Personal Branding
When nobody will hand your resume directly to a hiring manager, it’s up to you to market yourself. If you have no social media presence, potential employers have no idea who you are beyond your one-sheet resume. In today’s increasingly virtual workforce, a thriving professional social media presence can be just as valuable as a direct recommendation to your potential employer. Think of your personal branding as the perfect personal reference, showcasing all your good qualities and putting your best self forward. Get a Twitter, Pinterest, Behance, Instagram, LinkedIn–even a personal blog! Post content relevant to your field (and definitely avoid anything that would make you seem less-than-professional). Follow leaders in your industry and interact–you might just make a connection! The key is to have your name on the Web, associated with as much savvy, professional, relevant content as possible. Not sure where to start? Consider writing for Smart Girl’s Loop!
Whether you’re entering the workforce with no connections, or you just don’t know where to start, there is no excuse for an empty resume, especially in today’s dwindling job market. Get your name out there and boost your resume–it can make or break your next dream job!
Sarah delos Santos