Using Your Network to Make a Career Change

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Women in office setting
Career pro Krystal Hicks offers tips to Granite State College students.

Krystal Hicks, Founder,
Career Strategist,
JOBTALK, LLC

Editor’s Note: In a guest blog, Krystal Hicks, founder of JOBTALK, shares her insights on navigating career changes in today’s job market. JOBTALK is an accessible and inclusive career counseling and employer branding consulting practice.

One theme I see with career changers is the hesitation around asking for help from people in their network. It’s never easy to say to someone, “I don’t like what I’m doing right now, and I need to make a change,” because in our minds, we hear ourselves saying, “I messed up and picked the wrong field and now I’m stuck and annoyed I didn’t figure this out sooner.” Notice how tough we can be on ourselves?!

We need to stop trying to map out our life blueprint using a Sharpie. Draw that thing in pencil and hold on to the eraser because change is inevitable – and that doesn’t mean you failed. It means you evolved. I mean, who out there is the same person in their 30s as they were in their early 20s?! Fortune favors the bold, and there is no shame in asking for help. So how do you go about using your network to make a career change?

Let Your Network Help You

While networking can make some nervous, it can be a great opportunity to build relationships and learn from others. Attending a networking event, reaching out to someone for an informational interview, or speaking with an academic advisor can be opportunities that may enable you to make a career shift.

Here are a few types of people in your network you may want to connect with when you’re ready:

Career Services Office

Whether you’re in college or recently graduated, Career Services is there to help you. As a former Career Services professional, I always feel a pang in my heart when a new client reaches out to me and says they recently graduated from college and need help. As crazy as it sounds from a business perspective, I always encourage them to call their career center first. From updating your resume, to connecting with alumni in the field you’re hoping to pursue – this office can be a huge (and free) help during your transition. The kicker? Most offices offer free career services appointments to alumni… for life. I mean, hey, your tuition already paid for it! You might as well get your money’s worth!

Connect with the Well-Connected

While I’m always going to scream from the roof top that LinkedIn is the easiest way to connect with people in your dream job, don’t just network online. As the COVID dust settles, we’re seeing more and more events move back into in-person venues, so leverage these circles! Connect with your local Chamber of Commerce (they know everyone) and Workforce Development offices to see what mixers and events they have coming up. Maybe it’s a job fair, or a webinar with a few panelists in your space. Networking doesn’t have to be formal for it to be effective.

Pro Tip! It’s always unfortunate when I attend networking events as a consultant or guest speaker, and I see more employers show up than candidates. Don’t shy away from these opportunities! You have a captive audience. Ask the questions you really want to ask about their companies, or perhaps even examples of people they’ve hired who had nontraditional backgrounds. They are there to meet you! Leverage the time you have with them.

Instructors

If I had a dollar for every time a student stayed silent all semester, to then call or email me 3 months later with a million questions about their job search…I could retire right now. Your professors – and especially your adjunct instructors who are still working in their field when they’re not in class with you – are unbelievable sources of insight and contacts. Manage this connection carefully. Your goal is to create a relationship – not a transaction. Invest in getting to know them a bit. Participate in class. Stay after to ask a question on what was discussed. Be someone they want to help – not someone they have to. You’re not 20 anymore. There is no excuse to stay silent and shy and small. Let them get to know you and what you’re transition plan looks like. Ask for their help in connecting with people they may know. It’s amazing what people will give you if you just ask.