A Circle of Connections: Being Open With Your Network During the Job Search

By Andrea Dowd

In January 2020, I was five months into a new prospect research job that was exciting, gave me a voice at the table when important decisions were being made and challenged me daily. Then, the pandemic hit, difficult decisions were made and my job was eliminated by mid-April. I felt so many emotions, but the prevailing one was one of utter helplessness. There is little satisfaction in knowing that you were not the cause of your job loss. At the time of writing this, it is July and the pandemic is still actively making the world shift and change at a moment’s notice. A once active job market for researchers in the Midwest has seemed to become cautious at best.

I could share with you all of the things I have done to keep myself relevant, sane and busy during this time. I could share with you my success at landing interviews and the disappointment of not being first choice. Instead, I want to share with you my one tip for staying as positive and proactive as possible when faced with unemployment and a wall of uncertainty.

The tip: Be open and honest with the people in your circle. From the moment I knew there was a possibility that I would not have employment, I shared the news with a number of fellow prospect researchers, former colleagues and my fellow Apra Minnesota (Apra-MN) board members. I shared my plans for job hunting, what I was seeing available and, more importantly, what I was not seeing.

By being open with my struggles of finding opportunities, friends and colleagues offered to read my resume and cover letters, connect me with people in industries and companies I was applying to, encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, and apply for jobs that I thought were beyond my scope. What I learned is that I have a wonderful circle of people who care about me and want me to do well. Even when I am frustrated or sad, I know that I have people I can reach out to because I have been willing to make myself vulnerable.

Being part of my local Apra-MN Chapter has helped me stay busy and involved in the best of ways. While my colleagues have been experiencing a new level of work/life chaos and ever-changing research needs in a short amount of time, I have been able to reach out to them and offer up my time. I have the honor of being the vice president of my chapter and already know the multitude of ways I can be of more help or how I can jump in on last minute troubleshooting for online events.

If you are like me and find yourself job hunting and dealing with all that life has thrown your way since the beginning of the year, I suggest reaching out and being open. If you actively participate in the various Apra related arenas, step it up even more. Volunteer to host an online event for your chapter, ask Apra International how to get more involved and join in on those ubiquitous virtual happy hours.

If you are a little more introverted than that, reach out to your circle. This could include your former boss, your former gift officer who wanted you to research that really wacky donor for them, or your mentor who knows of an organization or company you’re interested in, even if a job isn’t available there now. It’s always amazing to me when I ask a simple “Who knows someone at…?” on social media or a text chat. As researchers and fundraising professionals, we seem to know a lot of people who know a lot of people.

I understand that being open about employment struggles can be very difficult, but it is so much more difficult when you hide your feelings and frustrations from those who can and want to help you. I encourage you to email, text or video chat with at least one person who might not know of your professional struggles. They may have a surprising suggestion — or at the very least, a sympathetic and encouraging word that could ease some of your burden. 

Learn more about the author featured in this article on the Connections Thought Leadership Page.

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