I spend a lot of time with clients who are looking for help finding work that has meaning and is fulfilling for them. It’s not easy, there’s a difference between doing work you love and having a job. For some, the differences are slight. For others, a wide chasm.
Doing work you love requires introspective awareness, a curiousness about what gives you energy. Having a job requires you muster just enough energy to get out of bed and shuffle into the office.
Doing work you love means venturing out into the unknown and growing in new and unanticipated ways. Having a job means playing it safe even though safety and security are illusions in today’s working world.
Doing work you love requires changing your relationship with failure, seeing every failure as a step towards success (however you define it). Having a job means doing just enough to get by.
Doing work you love means making sacrifices so you can pursue your passion. Having a job means sacrificing yourself for things you don’t believe in.
You get the point, I could go on ad infinitum. Why then do we often choose a job over doing work we love? I’m still wrestling with this question, but I believe many of us struggle to see beyond the hypothetical risks that our minds conjure when we dare to imagine stepping away from the familiar. I have also observed that many of us have deeply held beliefs about the benevolence of the common corporation. We harbor outdated and unrealistic notions of the employer and employee relationship, expecting – among other things – that we’ll get back a reciprocal amount of what we put in. Those days are gone.
The good news is it is possible to find work you love – and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit your job and strike out on your own. It’s even realistic to find a job and turn it into work you love!
It’s with this goal in mind that I’ve created The Fearless Guide to Networking Your Way to Work You Love. This guide is meant to be actionable, practical and doable. I made this as concrete and to the point as possible because that’s what my clients ask for. Follow this guide for 90 days and I guarantee you’ll be doing work you love (or at least be a lot closer to it).
Update your online profiles (LinkedIn is the professional networking tool, if you don’t have a profile, you need one). People you know want to help you find what you’re looking for, but you have to make sure your network knows you’re searching and what for. Don’t be afraid to look at others’ profiles for ideas and use what applies to your experience.
Use LinkedIn to search for job titles you think you might be interested in – read people’s profiles, look at their career path – how they got to where they are now, what experience they’ve highlighted. Start making some lists (potential career path options, things that sound interesting to explore further, the language you want to use, people you want to talk to). A word of warning – when reading LinkedIn profiles it may seem like everyone is so smart, so accomplished and so experienced that you couldn’t possibly be someone they would want to talk to OR that you’ll never measure up. That’s all bullsh*t – people use poetic license to spin themselves up to be something they’re not. Don’t let that get you down.
Begin connecting with everyone you know using LinkedIn. Set a goal of having one conversation per day with someone new. As a rule of thumb, your search will typically be more productive (meaning, you’ll land a job more quickly) if you narrow your focus on people who are in your industry, field or business of choice but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to people outside of your focus areas, you should. By narrowing your focus too much, you run the risk of limiting yourself or failing to uncover an unforeseen opportunity. That’s the beauty of networking – you never know where it might lead.
Leverage new LinkedIn connections as an entry point to reconnect, the conversation could go something like this: “Hey, so-and-so – thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn. It would be great to connect via phone and catch up. I’m interested to hear what you’ve been up to and I’d like to pick your brain about opportunities you might be aware of and/or individuals in your network it might make sense for me to connect with (with your introduction). I’m at career crossroads and I’m exploring several options. In an effort to make an informed decision, I’m reaching to people like yourself who might give me insight into my next move.” Setting the context is key – be clear that you’re looking for opportunities as well as reconnecting.
Having a productive networking conversation requires two things: authenticity and curiosity. Be authentic by telling the truth about the crossroads you’re at and why you’re looking for something new. Be honest about what you’re looking for and why. Be curious by familiarizing yourself with your contact:
- What questions do you have that are specific to this person?
- Review your contact’s LinkedIn profile or other information you might have access to. Is there anything interesting that is worth asking about and applicable to your search?
- If your contact is on LinkedIn, look at their connections. Is there anyone who you might want to be introduced to?
Outline The Conversation
I’m not advocating that you script your conversation, but it is useful to have an idea of how you would like the conversation to go. Don’t be too rigid, let the conversation flow naturally and come back to your outline if you get too far off base. A sample outline could be the following:
- Update on what your contact has been doing professionally (ask the thoughtful questions you prepared)
- Update on what you have been doing professionally (if you have a personal relationship, share a personal update)
- Bridge into your career exploration:
- Provide clarity on what industry/industries you’re interested in, why
- Provide clarity on what type of role/s you’re interested in, why
- Provide clarity on what attributes of a job/s interest you, why
- Explain how your talents and experience could translate to the industry / role / job / business in question
- What business pain do you resolve? What business problem do you solve?
- Make a specific ask (ask any combination of the following, depending on how you’ve set the conversation up or how it has evolved):
- Was there a time in your contact’s career where they were trying to make a change – what did they do? What worked for them?
- Experience – How did your contact get to where they are today? How did they get started in the industry / job?
- Experience – What are some of your contact’s most significant learnings about the industry or business?
- Experience – What would your contact do differently in their career if they could?
- Experience – What advice to someone just starting in the field / business / industry?
- Is your contact aware of opportunities in ‘x’ field / business / industry?
- Is your contact aware of people who I could talk to that might be beneficial for my search – who are they?
- Based on my background – are there types of jobs or industries that your contact would recommend you should be thinking about / looking at?
- General career/job search advice?
- Any other advice / recommendations / people to talk to?
- Close the conversation
- Ask if there is anything you can do to help and/or serve your contact
- Thank your contact for their time and insight
Manage the process
There are a few things that are critical to keep track of as you network your way to work you love. It can be easy to overlook them, so make sure you have everything you need BEFORE you begin having conversations with your network. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Take notes as you have conversations with each person – capture names, contact info and insights
- Keep track of who you’ve talked with, when and what the outcome of the conversation was (i.e. whether they were going to do something or you were). Don’t be afraid to follow up with people if they committed something to you. A week is usually a good amount of time to let pass before following up unless a shorter time frame was agreed upon
- If you have a particularly meaningful conversation, follow up with a personalized thank you email
As you can see, this is involved and it is work. It can be helpful to approach finding work you love like a part-time job. Set aside a block of time every day to work on your pursuit. As with any worthwhile endeavor, you are going to run into a few dead ends. Don’t get discouraged when people don’t get back to you (notice I said ‘when’, not ‘if’). You aren’t going to be a priority for some people and that’s fine. Move on to the next connection.
Finally, set no expectations for what each conversation might yield. By removing expectations for outcomes, we remove the possibility of failure. Instead, each connection we make provides us with learning, feedback and growth.
Networking is the best way to find work you love. There’s power in engaging with your network, opening yourself up to possibility, being vulnerable, in asking for help. Your network wants to help you, your job is to reach out and ask for it.