Julie Square

by CareerActually contributor, Julie Preston

My very first post for CareerActually was a reflection on the importance of taking that first step towards building a professional connection. The simple act of saying hello to someone else at a training workshop, or commenting on a tweet or blog post has the potential to lead anywhere and everywhere.

Over the past year, application of this strategy has led me to a new job in a new city and I wanted to share a little of that journey with you.

A change in my personal circumstances led me to start a job search in Hobart, Tasmania. Knowing the desired location meant that I could employ a more targeted approach to my networking.

My colleagues introduced me to their contacts in Hobart. I emailed or phoned each one and arranged to meet some when I was visiting Hobart earlier in the year. At the Career Development Association of Australia conference this year I made it a priority to introduce myself to as many Tasmanian delegates as possible. I signed up with a recruitment agency based in Hobart; something I’ve never done before. Recruiters based in your city or town are an important source of information on local employers in your career field of interest. Carole has written previously about other effective and efficient ways to find a job.

Often, there is no immediate pay-off in networking. Once an initial connection is made, the  relationship must be nurtured just as you would a garden. Too little attention and the plants will wither and die. Too much attention and the roots will rot. With just the right amount of care, over time your garden will be productive.  In my case it was around 10 months between the making of first connections and successfully gaining employment. In reality, this is probably quite fast, but at times it felt like an eternity for me. I attribute some of that speed to the work I had done to preparing the networking garden bed long before I had reason to commence a new job search. By maintaining a healthy network when I didn’t need it, I was able to draw on those connections when the time came.

hello 2

Image: Adapted from Bobbi Newman, Flickr

I chose to search for a job in Hobart while continuing my work in Canberra. At first this seemed quite logical – I could maintain an income in a job I enjoyed, and there is an unfair statistic that those currently employed are more likely to be employed in a new job.  However, after a few potential new employers asked when I was likely to be in Hobart I began wondering if a long-distance job search was right for me, and what was really stopping me from moving before I had a job.

The final push to really consider the best place to be when looking for a job was a comment from Dr Caroline Fisher during a PhD career event. “The Universe has always caught me” is normally too vague and risky for me to jump, but this time it felt like the right thing to do.  Soon after I had made the final decision to move to Hobart and continue the job search in situ.

On the day I submitted my resignation I was contacted by the Manager of one of my network connections asking if I was still looking for work. Within weeks I was all packed up and on the road, ready for a trip across Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania and on to a new adventure. My new position is a short term contract coordinating a Career Mentor Program for students at the University of Tasmania. I am excited for the opportunity to work in a new area of the Career Development field (my fears around actually being able to do the job will be the subject of a future post). I am also looking forward to the opportunity to build strong networks with my immediate colleagues, as well as connections I meet along the way.

I expect I’ll continue saying “Hello” for a long time.