I am a planner. I like to make lists and fill calendars. So when it came time to decide what to do after I graduated with my master’s degree in Student Development Administration, I was eager to plan the what, where, when, and how. Location. Institutional type. Position. These parts of the planning process were relatively easy. But an essential part of the “how” of getting a job these days is having a network.
My partner and I determined a few months ago that we wanted to move somewhere new, and after Google-ing, Wiki-ing, and finally visiting, we settled on relocating from Seattle, Washington to Austin, Texas. As an introvert, I dreaded this part of the plan the most. I already have a good network in the Seattle area, but trying to recreate one in a place over 2,000 miles away seemed exhausting. I had visions of attending conferences bigger than I’ve ever attended (everything is bigger in Texas, right?) and being lost in the crowd. A part of me was having second guesses about moving, which I think mostly stemmed from my apprehension to start networking.
One Sunday evening I finally decided to send out emails to higher education professionals in Austin. The first email was to an academic advisor stating I was a graduate student looking to work in the area in June and wanting to learn about the advising system and the culture of the institution where she worked. I asked her to please let me know if she was available to chat over the phone, thanked her in advance for her time, and signed my name. I read over the six sentences in my email about ten times and reluctantly clicked “send”. The other emails I sent that night were similar in nature, and I went to bed nervously wondering what these professionals, who had no connection to me, would think.
When I woke up the next morning, I had two enthusiastic responses in my inbox. I was honestly crossing my finger for at least one response. To my surprise, every single person I emailed wrote back to me by Monday evening! I’m not sure if this was just “southern hospitality” or catching people at the right time, but it was encouraging to find professionals who seemed genuinely interested in talking to a graduate student from the Emerald City trying to build a network in the Capital of Texas.
Since that Sunday evening, I have emailed many other professionals in higher education in Austin, and received similar results. Each time I speak with someone, I am inspired by their enthusiasm and desire to help someone whom they’ve never met in person. With each conversation, I learn something new about the profession, and I add another contact to my Texas network. While there is still much of the job search process that worries me, I would encourage planners and non-planners alike to reach out to others in the field. When I do receive a call for an interview, I will be able to speak confidently about the systems and issues in Texas higher education, and I will have a network I can call upon. If you are entering into a time of transition, especially the time after graduate school, I would encourage you to take the first step now, put yourself out there, and start connecting. I learned the pressure and anxiety I felt before networking was mostly unwarranted, and I am now excited to continue to build my network as I embark on new adventures in the Lone Star state.