The geography of networking

Often when I speak with jobseekers, they speak as though they regard it as a disadvantage to have particular requirements (or dream locations) around geography. But I would encourage you to see this as a tremendous advantage, especially when it comes to reaching out to people who you want to have help you with your search. Giving someone a geographical region helps organize and narrow thinking, corralling it on your behalf. Put yourself in their shoes for just a minute and think about how much easier it would be for you to answer the question “do you know any professionally-minded linguists in the Bay Area?” as compared to ”do you know any professionally-minded linguists?”

So, some specific tips for reaching out. If you are thinking about moving to a particular geographical location, consider a networking advance trip to lay some foundation. Remember, never ask for jobs directly, and you should not use this as an opportunity to sell something. Networking is precious, don’t alienate those who might be potential helpers by making them uncomfortable with a sales pitch.

If you are already in your dream location seek out events by reading the blogs of people or organizations in your area.

If you know you are going to be traveling (say you are going to Chicago for a conference) and you want to be doing some networking as part of this trip, consider whether you might host a happy hour while you are there or find a networking happy hour to participate in (I am part of the Canadian Expat community in DC, and we often have visitors stop in while they are in town). Invite all the folks you know in the area. Depending on how many people you know there, it may be a whole heck of a lot easier to organize everyone coming to you than to be traveling to meet a bunch of people individually. At the event, let folks know that you are in networking mode and what kinds of connections it is that you are looking for exactly.

LinkedIn. With LinkedIn, you can search by keyword, like “Oakland” or you can type in a zipcode directly into the “advanced search” feature. Within advanced search, pay attention for network settings. Your “1st degree connections’ are those people who you already know and LinkedIn might be helpful in reminding you who it is that you already know in a particular area, or it might alert you to people in your network who have relocated. However, the 2nd and 3rd degree and group contacts may be even more useful to you in a geographically based search. These are people who you do not yet know but who are connected to people in your network, who you might ask to introduce you.

Listservs. If you are already a member of listservs, post the question to the members of your community. The more specific the better. For example: “does anyone on this list know of people in the area of ‘applied storytelling’ who work in the Bay Area?”. If you are not a member of such groups, consider whether there might be a mentor or a trusted member of your network who is and who might post on your behalf. I recently did this for a student who was moving to Israel. I posted on the listserv “ling-outside” (a group designed for outward-facing linguists) asking whether anyone had contacts who were professionally-minded linguists working in Israel. Ironically, the person who responded said that he was not a good contact for her, but passed on the names of a handful of people and organizations who he thought might be good contacts for her, revealing himself to be a great connection for her after all. He might not be doing the work himself, but he is connected to people who are, and thus he is a great link for her!

Ask directly by posting as an update to Facebook, or Tweeting, e-mailing people who you know and trust or just letting it be known when you are talking that you are looking to make connections in a particular geographical region. If you are currently employed, you may wish to be careful about having it be known too widely lest it be perceived that you are jobsearching, but I think that networking is becoming increasingly known and understood, and just about any boss should recognize that outreach is always mutually beneficial.

And as ever, let me know how it is all going! I love to hear your stories about networking ☺

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