This article originally appeared on the Net Impact blog, another great resource for sustainability and social impact career advice. It has been reprinted with permission. It was originally published in 2017 but the content is very relevant for this decade. Thus, we are resharing a slightly updated post.
By: Katie Kross
Any job-seeker has heard this advice before: network, network, network. This advice is especially true when it comes to impact careers, where professional circles are small and disciplines are constantly evolving. Whether you are interested in clean tech or impact investing, education or corporate sustainability, you’ll find that networking with practitioners is absolutely your best investment of time when it comes to the job search. You might even find yourself talking your way into a job, or writing your own job description for a role that doesn’t exist yet.
But besides emailing directly and asking contacts for yet-another informational interview, how do you get an introduction to the professionals you’d like to meet? These six ideas could help you get a foot in the door.
1. Organize an event.
Convening a panel discussion, workshop, or conference is a perfect excuse to reach out to professionals whom you’ve been wanting to meet. You might offer to organize a panel on sustainable business or B Corporation trends for your local Chamber of Commerce, Net Impact professional chapter, or an industry trade association. If you’re a student, you might sign up to organize an event on campus. Inviting executives to speak at your event is not only flattering, but also gives you a reason to establish an ongoing communication with them before, during, and after the event.
2. Offer to pick up a speaker from the airport.
Whether you’re organizing the event yourself or just planning to attend, offer to make a taxi run to the airport for any speakers that you’d really like to meet. You can gain some valuable one-on-one networking time with the guest of honor en route. And if there’s traffic, so much the better!
3. Interview an expert.
Create your own podcast or blog, and use that as a platform to conduct interviews with contacts you’d like to get to know. Most executives (and their organizations) appreciate the exposure, and this is a good opportunity for you to converse with someone who might not have responded to a request for an informational interview. If you don’t want to start your own blog, you might pitch an article idea to an existing blog like Justmeans, Sustainable Brands, TriplePundit, or Next Billion.
4. Get active on Twitter.
Twitter is a great place to build your personal brand as a job seeker, but it is also a useful way to engage in dialogue with influencers and thought leaders—dialogue that can translate into a real-world relationship. You can start by “favoriting” and retweeting tweets (focus on individuals, not companies or brands) and then add meaningful comments in direct replies. Contribute to the conversation on hashtags like #socent, #impinv, and #susty. If you attend a conference, you can also find speakers talking about the event in real time on Twitter, and might suggest an in-person meet-up on one of the breaks.
5. Invent your own research project.
If you’re a student or currently unemployed, you might have time to pursue a research project that would not only build your resume but would also open networking doors. Find a key issue or trend in your focus area that’s worth investigating and use that opportunity to research, interview, and author a white paper or issue brief about it. For instance, you might decide to investigate the impact of a new environmental policy on a particular sector or survey CSR best practices in an industry. This is a chance to develop deep expertise on an issue, reach out to industry practitioners for their input, and share your findings with your network after the paper is complete.
6. Strike up a conversation on the plane … or at the bus stop … or in line at Starbucks.
You never know about that person in front of you waiting for a latte. They might work for a company that you’re interested in, or they might be connected with an organization through their volunteer activities, their friends and family, or their professional circles. Eric Chappell, an MBA student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, landed his summer internship after a conversation in an airport lounge in Dubai. “It turns out the guy I was speaking to was the VP of Strategy for PepsiCo’s AMEA region. We were just chatting and kept touch over a couple of years as my career progressed. Later, it turned into a fantastic internship offer,” he says.
Finally, passion is infectious. We are all connected in surprising ways, so never pass up the opportunity to have a conversation with someone and share your passion for making the world a better place. It just might lead to your next job.
Katie Kross is a business school educator, career coach, and the author of Profession and Purpose: A Resource Guide for MBA Careers in Sustainability.