Alvah Parker

Article Summary:

How to developing contacts in a new field.

Building A Solid Network: How to Develop New Contacts

A client who has a fine arts degree wanted to move out of his successful career in advertising and into the real estate development business. He had already enrolled in a top notch MBA program to learn more about the field. In addition he had found work with a bank doing real estate appraisals.

With another year to go in the MBA program he came to me to work on creating a plan for becoming a real estate developer.

It is not unusual for someone to study one thing in college, try it for a while and then decide that there is another field that is more appealing. This dramatic change however brought up all kinds of fears for my client.

His first concern was that potential employers would look at his resume and see nothing on it that would indicate he had the skills necessary for his new career. He wasn't sure that he really knew exactly what a career in real estate development entailed or even if it was the right choice for him. Finally he was worried because all his connections were in advertising.

Those questions could easily be answered by someone already in the field. Where could he find some names and an entry? One place that many of my clients overlook when they are looking to make new connections is their college alumnae office. Most alums truly want to be helpful to students and fellow alumnae. My client could easily make use of the alumni office at his current business school. The best way to make a new connection is to have a common interest (your college) or a mutual friend that connects you.

My client was still a bit reticent. "Do you think they will really talk to me?" he asked. I asked him to think back in his advertising career to a time when someone he didn't know well called him out of the blue to ask for something. How did he feel about it? Did he help?

Often the person being called is flattered by the attention and is eager to help. Ten years ago a young man who had been a student of mine 25 years prior to that called me to reconnect. He actually called to tell me what an impact my teaching had made on his life. I was flattered and delighted to hear from him.

The young man who called me wasn't looking for help at that moment. Keeping in touch with your network even when you don't have questions to ask makes it easier to reconnect when you need help or information. Those people who willingly help others will find many helping hands when they need help themselves. Be sure to be that helping person yourself! 

Professors and teachers from your school days can be powerful sources of information too if you stay in touch with them. If you are currently in school, nurture those relationships. If you are out of school it is never too late to rekindle them. (My former student waited 25 years!)

Building a solid network of people is important and can be fun. Get started early on it and be systematic about keeping track of the people, information about them, and the frequency with which you contact them. Be prepared however to help those in your network too. To build a thriving network the communications and support has to go both ways!

Take Action:

1.Make a list of people you know and who you want to remain in touch with.
Select someone you haven't spoken to in a while and make the connection.

2. Call your college or graduate school alumni office for names and telephone numbers of people in a field you are exploring.
Call one of the names on the list.

3. Find a way to track your contacts.
A spread sheet or contact management software are two ways to manage this information.

4.To keep track of your contacts personal information take a look at the 66 questions that Harvey MacKay suggests in "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive".

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor for attorneys and Career Transition Coach as well as publisher of Parker's Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. To subscribe send an email to join-roadtosuccess@
go.netatlantic.com. Parker's Value Program enables clients to find a way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. She is both a Practice Advisor and Coach to attorneys, sole practioners, and works with people in transition to find a fulfilling career. Alvah is found on the web at www.asparker.com. She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.

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