Networking in the Age of COVID-19

I think we can all agree that it’s not a good time to be looking for a job. Openings have disappeared from job boards, and many companies are laying off employees, not looking for new ones. However, if you’re looking for work there are still options out there for you. Though I have struggled to find interviews, I have been working to widen my network and adapt my skills during this time.

I used my university’s online job board to find people with similar career backgrounds to my own interests. You can also search for fellow alums using keywords on Linkedin. After finding connections, I reached out to these people, expressing interest in their careers and asking if they had any advice to offer.

One connection was particularly helpful, helping me to get in contact with important people in a field I am interested in–higher education development. Through her, I set up a call with a professional who had a plethora of advice to offer on the skills I would need to learn to be successful in this field. Many universities currently have hiring freezes, but this contact promised to stay in touch once future roles opened up. She also suggested that I become certified in Grant Writing through online courses, using my extra time to gain an important skill.

Websites like Handshake and job boards from your alma mater are great resources for this type of networking. You can also try to reach out to connections at the career services office at your college, or try larger networking sites like Linkedin, or, if you’re looking to network with other women, sites like Girlboss. Use this time to gain new academic and professional skills, as well as to grow your portfolio or online presence. Eventually, the work you do now will lead to a job.

How to get Freelance Writing Jobs

So you want to get paid to write–Where do you start? There are plenty of online and in-person platforms out there for you to get connected with online publications and those looking to fill their content creation needs. Of course, you must hone your skills and create a portfolio first, but afterwards, these are some of the places where you can find work:

Upwork

Upwork is a great resource for freelance jobs of any kind. You can find personal assistant, blogging, or other writing jobs on here. I’ve written freelance for multiple blogs and publications through Upwork. It’s a website on which companies and individuals can post freelance job offerings. You need “connects” to apply for jobs. You can pay for these, or you are given a set amount for free. You can pitch a price or follow the employers offering. You also create a profile where you can display your portfolio and past projects. 

AngelList

AngelList is a job board, like Linkedin, for startups. You can search for freelance content creation positions on here, though there are typically more openings for tech-related jobs on here. I currently work a freelance content marketing job through this website. 

Linkedin

Though Linkedin primarily posts full-time positions, you are also able to find part time work or freelance work on the website if you are searching for the right things. 

Pitching on your own

If there is a publication that you want to write for, and they accept submissions, try going this route. Unfortunately, a lot of online publications won’t pay well or at all for submitted pieces. Try to start smaller in order to build your portfolio, then pitch to bigger companies.

Send out your info

Another way to get freelance writing work is the old-fashioned way–you can create business cards with your information and links to your portfolio on them, and leave them up in coffee shops and other local businesses. 

Creating a Portfolio

In order to gain freelance writing work, you have to get your  voice out there. This can be through a portfolio website, like clippings.me, or a personal blog. A personal blog is your best bet, as it allows you to start publishing work yourself, and maintain a carefully curated internet presence.

Do you have any experience freelance writing? Let me know.

How Joining Groups on Meetup.com can Improve your Professional and Personal Skills

Why join?

In my adventures after college graduation, I needed something to fill my time both socially and productively. I had heard a lot about the meetup.com app and website where users can create groups and events, and decided to give it a try. I completed an account and took a look at the events in my area. In the central New Jersey area where I live, there were a lot of hiking clubs. This is where I started.

two person walking towards mountain covered with snow

Immediately, Meetup provided me with a way to explore my hometown and home area in a completely new way. I was introduced to people and trails that I had never heard of before. Thanks to Meetup, I found plenty of new hiking areas around me. This helped me get outside and active, but also become more social.

What does Meetup have to offer?

Each group I joined introduced me to even more groups. From my first hiking club, one specifically for 20s and 30s members in my area, I met a woman who also ran a book club that met at a local Panera. It did not take long for me, a long-running book devourer, to join. One Tuesday a month, we met to discuss new books, typically fiction that spoke to the female, 20s and 30s audience. Many of them ended up being from Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club.

people tossing their clear wine glasses

Another club I joined was called the “Wining Women”, ha ha. It was a group of women in their twenties and thirties who go together to drink wine or hang out at other fun events like bowling alleys and axe throwing. My first event in this club was at SM23, a hidden gem of a cocktail bar in Morristown, NJ. We shared stories of work, listened to music, and got creative drinks at the funky bar.

Through my book club I was introduced to yet another book club, this one a more personal theme–each month, we met at a member’s house, and each participant was charged with bringing a home-cooked dish relating to a chosen theme. We brought “food that reminds you of the water,” for Where the Crawdads Sing, and “southern food” for the Georgia-set An American Marriage. Our conversations hit deep into the meanings of the books, and friendships were forged. This club even inspired an article that I wrote for The Attic on Eighth about pairing books with food.

What does this have to do with a career?

All of these clubs have provided opportunities not only for friendship but networking and professional development, as well. I gained contacts in fields that I was looking for jobs in, particularly higher education and publishing, and receiving great help on applications from the willing and selfless new friends. They also inspired me to get outside, and gave me a schedule to make up for a lack in productive use of time.

I enjoyed these clubs so much that I have since started my own in a way. I have begun teaching basic knitting skills to members of my original book club. This is something that has, as well, encouraged me to break out of my shell and taught me valuable skills.

Have you ever tried meetup.com? What did you think?

Carrie Kerpen’s “Work It”: An Excellent Source for Professional Development Advice

Carrie Kerpen’s Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business, features advice for young, female professionals and those starting off on their own. It features interviews from professionals including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Kerpen is also the host of the podcast “All the Social Ladies”. 

This was one of the first strictly career development books I have read, and I found it to very very inspiring and helpful. As a young women starting to build my career, many of the interviews and notes included spoke to my current journey. I enjoyed the format of the book, which was broken into organized chapters that also contained graphics and bullet points of best practices, plus parts you are able to fill out yourself. I think that this was a really great way to get in touch with your career goals and break away from negative thinking. 

Work It was written for women in the career force, and it includes a chapter on balancing family and career and on navigating a hostile work environment. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on networking and building a “squad” of powerful women to support your efforts. Networking is a big focus of the book, and I learned to not be afraid to send direct emails to people you want to gain advice or work from. I also learned to view networking as a never-ending activity, and to do it even in casual situations. Anyone can be a helpful contact. I also learned how to be able to say “no” when requests are unnecessary or harmful to my goals, and how to get over failures and move on to new endeavors. This was an excellent source for women looking to become entrepreneurs.  

The interviews in this book were particularly helpful, seeing how this is what Maggie does regularly for her podcast. Each women shared advice that aligned with the goals of the chapter, and included heartfelt personal anecdotes.

Overall, I was really pleased with the quality of this book and recommend it for any woman in the work force looking to grow or start their own business. 

Taking the Unconventional Road to Your Career

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know” recently. Job advice from friends and family quite frequently comes in the form of cliches and outdated wisdom. But there is definitely a lot of truth in the power of networking, and I have come to realize that every social setting can be a chance to make connections. Looking at the world around me in a new way helps with the job search in a multitude of ways. I’ve found that the following practices helped me find professional development and leads in unfamiliar places:

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Do it Yourself:

Create your own job–start a blog, write content for others, help online companies with their content marketing efforts, and more. Have a talent for jewelry making, drawing, or writing? Try to capitalize on these skills, selling your finished work. Working for yourself provides you with an immense amount of freedom and capability. I have dipped into this role as the creator of this blog, and recently have submitted pieces to other publications.

Odd Jobs:

Tutoring, pet sitting, babysitting–all of these can be great ways in which to make money. I’ve even recently found work teaching small knitting classes.

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Internet Resources:

I have found UpWork to be a great resource in finding small writing projects. I am currently working on writing articles about beauty products thanks to a role I found here. All of this work is paid, and allows you to build your portfolio. Upwork is a site where business owners can post temporary jobs–admin work, tech work, blogging and content writing jobs tend to be more frequently seen here.

Of course, the internet is also great for looking for full time work. Turn to Linkedin, Indeed, or smaller, more specific job search websites such as Angellist, which is more prominently focused on start-ups. Make sure to be continuously active on these sites, maintaining connections and posting content that signals your skills and helps get your name out. I frequently repost blog content related to professional development on my Linkedin.

Reach out to anyone and everyone

I have found connections at a bar, book clubs, through friends and professors and family–everywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask and to put out your interests.

Study Up

Don’t stop learning and developing your skills after graduation. There are many ways to strengthen your resume through courses and certifications. I have been learning about content marketing through Hubspot Academy, which offers certificate courses entirely for free. Others include Google Analytics courses, Business Blogging, and more. Also–don’t forget to turn to your local library–many offer career resources, or, at least a multitude of helpful books on skill development and job search. My local YMCA, as well, currently is offering a job search speaker series.

Counselors

I have turned to Career Services at my University in order to improve my resume, find connections, and consider my career options. These resources are great, and if you no longer are nearby your college, consider finding a professional career counselor, as well.

Do you have any other career search advice? Let me know in the comments.

Want to Put your Writing Skills to Use? Learn About Content Marketing

It’s a sad misconception that humanities majors are doomed to a life of un- and underemployment. The skills learned in such degrees are highly valuable in the workplace, where clear and persuasive writing and communication are key. However, the world is changing rapidly, and there are technical and “hard” skills you can use to back up your degree in English, History, or any of the other social sciences.

One such skill is “Content Marketing”. Content Marketing refers to the use of written or visual content to attract potential customers and point them towards services that they will then pay for. Writers and editors with skills and experience in content marketing are much more likely to be hired in jobs where blogging and online content is used as a key tool to boost sales and following.

I recently completed Hubspot Academy’s online certification course in content marketing, which I was then able to advertise on Linkedin and on my resume, making my background stronger to potential employers. In this course, I completed a number of video modules, practical activities, and passed a comprehensive test. I improved my knowledge in content marketing as a means to not only boost my resume, but improve my own blog presence, as well.

Some of the most important skills I learned in this course include:

Know your Audience:

Hubspot’s course suggests compiling “buyer personas,” or fictional representations of the type of customer you are looking to attract. I thought about the type of viewer I am looking to attract on this blog, which is mainly college graduates looking to gain fill-time employment. It is important to research what this person may be interested in and to maintain connections with your real-life followers, as well. Knowing your audience is essential in gaining followers and attracting people with the right content.

Stay Organized:

This course helped me create a detailed calendar in which to organize when, where, and what content to post. It also made me think more clearly about the reason why I am posting content, and the ideal outcome I am looking for in posting. It also helped me discover new, creative ways to think of blog post ideas, and to think carefully about when to post them.

Be Social:

I learned that it is important to advertise your content on social media channels, and that these should all be personalized to the particular website. I also learned about the importance of guest blogging, and how maintaining connections with other influencers can help you to build up a following.

Learning these and other skills puts you in a place above your other humanities-major peers when it comes to looking for a writing position. Good luck with the job search!

Twitter

On Overcoming Rejection

For a recent graduate, perhaps especially one with a humanities degree, the job market can be a dismal place. Rejection is everywhere, and it seems like no matter how many positions you apply for, you are lucky if a handful respond. I have been experiencing this rejection on a regular basis—many times not even complete rejection but a total void, a lack of any sort of response to my resume sent out to so many people. 

Yet, I’ve come to appreciate rejection. In my last post, I wrote about my experience in the public speaking organization “Toastmasters,” in which I recently spoke about my experience with rejection. Another member walked up to the podium to introduce the “table topics,” a part of the meeting in which members are invited to make impromptu speeches. She spoke about her own experiences receiving a rejection letter from a publisher for a children’s book she was writing, and about learning to view that as an opportunity, and not as something to turn her away from writing completely. This spoke to me, not merely as a fellow writer, but as someone experiencing a similar form of rejection on job applications every day. 

How have I learned to view rejection as a positive? I think I would first separate the types of rejection I have experienced—which, sadly, for the most part is merely a complete lack of response. This form of rejection can be particularly disheartening, but I remind myself that this must mean that there were many other candidates for the position, or perhaps that I would not even want to work for a company that doesn’t personally connect with its candidates. 

The “better” form of rejection can perhaps be described as constructive criticism. In Toastmasters, I spoke about a detailed response I had received from someone whom I had interviewed with for an Educational Technology job with a company that I had wanted to work for for a long time. During this interview process, I had to complete a practice assignment. The interviewer told me that they had decided not to go through with me as a candidate, but explained in detail that they were pleased with my skills, though one aspect of the assignment was not up to par—the ways in which I had written about speaking to potential stakeholders in the company had not been adequately personalized. 

I found this response, though disheartening at first, to be particularly helpful, and responded that I would love to stay in touch and would learn from their advice. I took the rejection as a positive, as something to learn from that would improve my interviewing skills for future positions. I also continued to stay in touch with the interviewer, hoping that they may have future opportunities that better fit my skill set and interests. 

The best part of all of this—even though I struggle greatly with public speaking, I won best “Table Topics” speech that day—because I found it easy to speak about something so important and relatable to what I have been going through. And that’s something I can brag about in the next interview!

Net-working out

When you’re in the midst of a job search, every interaction starts to look different to you. Parties and gatherings become potential opportunities to find work and advice, to connect with people in fields you’re attempting to find work in. I’ve certainly found this to be the case in my recent experiences, whether they are with friends or strangers–every day I seem to find a new connection. These connections continue to branch out like chains pointing me to the perfect job.

I spent this weekend canvassing for a local candidate for committeewoman, and met a group of wonderful people involved in the politics of my town. At these meetings, I spoke with an organizer who mentioned that she has many writers and editors working to create campaign materials and get the word out, and would help me get in touch with these people. The candidate also had hired local students to serve as editorial interns on the campaign. I learned that local politics are a great place to look for editorial work experience, and gained new experiences and connections.

Other connections came from a book club that I attend monthly. One member works for the publisher Penguin Random House in publicity, and was happy to meet with me to offer advice on working in the world of publishing, and to help me apply for jobs and internships.

Still more so have come from friends, family, and local acquaintances. I have recently joined Toastmasters, which also serves to improve my skills within the workforce, particularly in an area that has scared me for a while (public speaking). One member happened to be the mother of a girl I attended high school with, who was working at the health information technology company IQVIA. She put us in touch to speak about possible openings that would be a good fit for me.

Later on, I even won a small award for speaking about my job search experience at Toastmasters, which was about finding the positive in rejection. I related this speech specifically to finding the positives in specific rejection letters that, instead of merely telling you off, explain why you were not chosen and, in turn, allow you to build upon those mistakes and improve upon your skills. I’ve certainly experienced both “good” and disheartening rejection in this job climate, and I’ve found it quite helpful to focus on constructive criticism on your way up the ladder.