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> One thing that is mentioned in most job hunting guides is networking.
> Talk to people you know (and don't know). Ask for leads and if
> they've heard anything that might be open. Bring it up to your
> hairdresser/barber, bartender, store clerk -- you'd be amazed at
> where a lead can come from.
There are two tricks to networking. The first is actually pretty
easy - keep track of everybody you meet and be methodical about
maintaining relationships with people in your field, or related to
The hard part is getting over the guilt about doing something
methodically which you feel should be spontanenous. Just recognize
(and repeatedly tell yourself :-) that it's a normal part of the
career and that you're actually doing people a service by keeping in
touch with them - it flows both ways. Beyond keeping yourself in the
loop, you should always be looking for ways you can help others out,
by passing the word about positions that need to be filled, or
candidates who need work. If somebody calls you and you're not
appropriate, or not available, make sure you don't just shrug and hang
up, make it your mission for a day or two to hook them up with some
Additionally, this should be a practice that you keep up
constantly, whether employed or not:
When you work with somebody and you respect them and think you've
earned their respect, don't be shy about approaching them privately
and asking if you can use them as a professional reference.
When you're leaving a job behind (if you're a contractor, this
happens a lot more often) don't be shy about approaching them and
asking if you can keep in touch for professional purposes. Or vice
versa, when somebody else leaves the place you're working.
Whether you're on the market or not, you should make a habit of
circulating your resume - set up a personal web site and always keep
it up to date, including your resume, as well as literally circulating
your resume. Not only does this keep you in the habit, it also keeps
you aprised of the market and your current value.
Most good technical writers are good at planning and being
methodical (it comes with the territory), they just need to refocus
those aptitudes on interpersonal/job hunt topics. The second trick is
harder because it's something you have to practice and perfect, which
is to be "honestly on the make". You have to get in the habit, when
between jobs (or seeing an upcoming completion of a contract you're
working on) of shaking hands when you're introduced and immediately
following up with "I'm a technical writer, by the way, do you need or
know anybody who needs a technical writer?"
There's a trick to this, and it's hard to articulate, but
essentially, people are much happier with you if you're honest about
being on the make. Everybody has been unemployed at some point in
their life, and they all understand what it's like. They'll be much
happier with you if you're up front about it and get it out of the way
as soon as possible, and move on if it's inappropriate. Thus, you're
"on the make" but you're also honest about it - you're not beating
around the bush and you're not waisting their time and you're not
trying to con them. Do it with *everybody*, no matter how irrelevant
they may seem - this is another aspect of the honesty, folks will
understand that you're asking everybody and hence won't take it
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