Issue #7: Job-searching tips for women, by women 🚺

Starting out the month of December, learn about two powerful women on Washington City Paper's newest podcast, check out a women-led webinar about body language, and see what Kim Stiens has to say on networking successfully.

I’m so bad at networking. I try to go to these events, and I feel like I never know what to say, and it feels so fake; like we all know we’re just using each other for jobs. Is this what it’s supposed to be like? How can I do it better?

It is absolutely not supposed to be like that, but what you’re experiencing is really common. It’s because people take a completely wrongheaded approach to networking.

Let me tell you a story.

When I was last job-searching, I was in the middle of the process with a company that really interested me when another company gave me an offer that I accepted. I withdrew amicably, but I’d always wondered … what happened to that organization? Who had they hired instead of me? How had they ended up working through the challenges they’d faced?

After I’d been at my new job for about a year, it finally hit me one day … why not just, you know, find out? So, I emailed the person I’d interviewed with and—somewhat awkwardly—asked, “I really enjoy my current job and am not looking to get hired or anything, but I’m still really intrigued by what ya’ll have been doing, and I would love to just grab some coffee and compare notes, operations nerd to operations nerd.”

He accepted, we met up, and it was a fascinating and wonderful conversation! We talked all about the operational challenges at our respective organizations, swapped book recommendations, and generally nerded out. We parted ways saying we should definitely do it again sometime and, to boot, he made it clear that if I ever were looking for another job, I should hit him up.

The key difference between our experiences, reader, is interest. I talked to my contact because I was genuinely interested in the issues his organization faces. A person who can ramble for 40 minutes about which CMS they like and why is almost always going to be more fun to talk to than someone who is looking for a job and giving an elevator pitch.

So, when you’re not looking for a job is when you should be networking. Reach out to people who seem to be doing interesting things, and be willing to buy them coffee or lunch. Have strong opinions about the challenges and issues your sector faces, and be genuinely interested in talking them out with smart people.

The secret to networking isn’t that you do it to get jobs. You do it to learn more about your industry, to improve your own abilities and toolset. Jobs will follow because you’ll become the kind of person people like to hire: smart, informed, and interested!

If you’ve got a work, job-search, or networking question for Kim, hit her up at kimberlee.stiens@gmail.com or find her on Twitter: @ranavain

  • Learn about Cyndee Clay, the founder of HIPS, an organization that serves people involved in street economies. [Washington City Paper]

  • District resident Morgan Mercer is using virtual reality to combat sexual assault. [Technical.ly DC]

  • Get to know the woman behind the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, April Reign. [Washington City Paper]
  • D.C. is number one for women in tech, but there's still more we can do. [DC Inno]
  • December 5: This women-focused roundtable will discuss how to get paid and get promoted.

  • December 5: POLITICO’s annual Women Rule Summit will bring together female leaders and focus on how women are shaping our future.

  • December 18: This women-led webinar will discuss body language, charisma, and how to think outside the box to make presentations more engaging.

Michelle Goldchain and Kim Stiens contributed to this newsletter.