What if I don't know anyone who works in the area I'm interested in?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 4:14pm

“I have a few ideas in mind for what I’d like to do as a career, but I don’t know anyone who works in the area I’m interested in. What should I do?”

What should I do?

This is a common problem that students may face as they begin to explore possibilities and develop their career.  Thankfully, your network is deeper than you think and surprising connections can often be made with some effort and enthusiasm.

First, ask yourself two questions: “Who do you know?” and, “Who knows you?”  Challenge yourself to write a list of as many names as you can—friends, classmates, alumni, close and extended family members, your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, your doctor, dentist, spiritual leader, teachers, professors, coaches, advisors, current and former coworkers and supervisors, student organization and/or volunteer project members…your community of any kind. This is your “circle.” It will likely be a fairly long list, but it’s still possible that no one on the list is working in your area of interest. 

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Do not despair! The important question here is, “Who do they know?” Consider that each of your connections has their own large circle, and it is likely that you don’t know who is in those circles.  They are only one friendly introduction away from you, through your own connections.  Inform your connections of your career interests, and ask if they can think of anyone who has experience in this field.    

Another important layer to your network is the University of Iowa, with its very large number of alumni and Hawkeye fans worldwide.  “Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye” is not an empty phrase—people in a myriad of career fields feel pride in their Hawkeye identity and welcome the opportunity to connect with other Hawks.  One great way you can connect with alumni in your field of interest is through LinkedIn, the professional networking website.  Create a personal profile and use the Connections -- Find Alumni tab to research alums by where they live and work, what they do, and what they majored in.  You can then connect individually with people who work in the career area you’re interested in.

Once a Hawkeye, always a hawkeye image

“Ok, I’ve got a few leads from my circle and from LinkedIn.  I want to reach out to these people, but what do I say?”  Whether you want to explore what the career is like, or hope to make a good impression to apply for an internship or a job, the best route to take is to request an informational interview.  Click here to learn more about informational interviews and review sample questions.

If you’re worried about feeling like you’re bothering people or asking for undeserved help—don’t be! Generally, people like to be helpful if they can be—it gives them a good feeling.  Be sure to thank your connections for their assistance, and quickly follow up on any leads they provide. 

By following these tips, the power to grow and nurture your network really is in your hands.

-Written by Amanda McFadden, Career Advisor