Networking the Systematic Way

By Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, March 13, 2003; 2:47 PM

You have written a description of your ideal job. You know exactly what kind of job you want. How do you go about finding and securing that dream job? You can employ a highly effective form of networking. If you are still in school you can undertake this effort under the auspices of your major department. You may even be able to do it for academic credit.

To illustrate the method, I have used the example of someone who is seeking a teaching job. However, it is important to recognize that the method is applicable to nearly any profession.

Your primary goal is to obtain visibility in the schools (or settings) that you find most desirable.
• Make a list of those schools. Ideally, you should list 30 schools. Obtain the names of the principals and teachers in these schools.
• Next, identify something that you do really well that is unique and interesting. For example, if you wanted to be an art teacher, you might identify some type of interesting art that you like to do. Perhaps you weave and make your own looms. Or, if you are a history major, perhaps you are particularly interested in and knowledgeable about a particular period of history.
• Then, create a 30-45 minute presentation about this subject and present it to the students in the schools that you have identified. Practice it on your friends. Refine it. Make it fascinating. Many people get stymied at this step because they become so anxious that they forget their interests. It is perfectly reasonable to attach yourself to an existing program, such as Habitat for Humanity or the Special Olympics. Just be sure to pick a program that is related to the area in which you want to teach. During your presentation, be sure to tell the students, if they are interested, how they might get involved.
• Now you are ready to send a well-written letter to the principal of the school offering, free of charge, to do this presentation, in an art class or at an assembly.
• Then, call to follow-up on your letter. Tell the principal that you would be very interested in spending 10-15 minutes with him/her before or after the presentation in order to learn more about the school and/or to obtain feedback about what went well and what warranted further improvement.
• Give your talk.
• If they liked your talk, ask them if they can think of any other school/class in the area where it might be of interest. Ask them whom you should contact. Ask if you can use their name.
• Be sure to mention that your ultimate goal in the year 2001 is to obtain a teaching job in the _______ (name of geographic) area.
• After the presentation, thank everyone who helped you -- the principal, teachers and secretary. When you get home, write each of them a thank you note.
• Each month do a follow-up with the teachers and principal. If you see an interesting article on your topic, send it to them with a brief note. Also, if you are only a junior, make it clear to them that you are willing and eager to return next year to speak to the new crop.
• In April if you are a senior, or in the fall if you are a junior, call the teacher/principal and tell them that you are beginning your job search in the _________ (geographic) area. Ask them if you can meet with them for a half an hour to seek their advice about how to obtain a teaching position. Voila! Now you have 30 principals/teachers, who know how terrific you are and are looking out for you.

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