How to Network Online for a Career Change

portrait of Meg Embry
by Meg Embry

Updated March 29, 2022

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How to Network Online for a Career Change

You want to make a career change. You've even figured out the path forward. Now you just need to get the word out to the right people.

If you're switching careers after being in the workforce for several years, online networking can feel like uncharted territory.

You don't want to get it wrong by sliding into a stranger's instagram DMs with a weird ice breaker, or befriending a potential employer on Facebook where they can see everything your whacky Aunt Marge posts on your wall.

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Ready to start your journey?

So what exactly are the rules of online engagement these days? Follow these four steps to start networking tactfully and strategically for a career change.

4 Steps to Start Networking for a Career Change

Step 1: Curate Your Online Presence

Have you spent any time thinking about your online presence? Your online presence includes anything that will pop up when someone searches for you: public social media pages, personal websites, and public engagement forums.

The first impression a potential employer will have of you is probably going to be online –– and we all know that first impressions matter.

To make sure that online-you comes off as capable and hireable as actual-you, consider these questions:

  • Does my online presence reflect my values?
  • Am I displaying curiosity and competence?
  • Does my online presence exist in the right places?

LinkedIn

If you don't have a Linkedin profile, now is the time to fix that.

LinkedIn is the primary social media platform for professional networking, and a crucial tool for career-switchers. You can't afford not to network there: nearly 72% of recruiters use the platform, and four people are hired every minute on it.

When building out your LinkedIn profile, make sure to:

  • Do your homework: What skills and traits are listed in job descriptions for the career you want? How can you emphasize those in your own work history or education?
  • Highlight specifics that demonstrate your transferable skills, using data when you can. (Ex: I managed a team of 12 creatives in three time zones to increase our click-through rates by 20% over a period of six months.)
  • Use the "About" section to tell a compelling story about why you will be great at the career you're aiming for.
Suggestion:
Consider expanding your online presence with a personal website or portfolio to showcase more of your personality and interests.

Step 2: Email the Connections You Already Have

Now it's time to alert everyone you already know that you're in the market for a new career. Start by sending out a brief email to your professional contacts, friends, and family.

If they can't help, they might know someone who can. You can include things like:

  • Positions you'd be interested in
  • Target job titles and industries
  • Relevant past experience or recent upskilling
  • An updated resume or link to your personal website

Example: Email Blast

Hello friends and colleagues,

As you know, I've been teaching high school history for the last decade. It's been a good run, but now I want to make a career switch. I've just completed my Master's degree in communication management, and I'm reaching out to see if you can help connect me to any leads or contacts you may have.

Specifically, I'm interested in doing internal or external communications within higher education. I'm happy to start in an entry-level position for the right school, though I would prefer a management position. I would also consider communications roles in the nonprofit sector.

If you can think of any people or opportunities I should be aware of, please let me know. I've included my resume and a link to my website, as well as a list of target positions and companies I would love to work for.

Feel free to pass any of this information along. I appreciate your help and look forward to staying in touch.

Also take some time to send more targeted emails to people who have connections that might help you.

Example: Targeted Email

Hi Sue!

I hope you're well. I remember that you spent several years in administration at the University of Rochester before you moved to Boston. I'm looking to make a career switch into communications management, preferably in higher education. I've just completed my MA in Communications.

There is an internal communications position in the business department of UR that I'm very interested in. Do you have any contacts there you could put me in touch with?

Step 3: Use Your Online Presence to Make New Connections

Now that you've tapped your existing network, it's time to start building a new one in the industry you want to break into.

Research Relevant Connections

There are a lot of opportunities to be strategic here. As a career-changer, you'll benefit from connecting with people who already have the job you want. You can find them on LinkedIn by:

  • Joining industry or professional groups, which are virtual spaces for industry professionals to get to know each other, build valuable connections, and share useful information.
  • Using LinkedIn's Advanced Search function, where you can find people with specific job titles you're interested in.
  • Exploring company profiles and using the search function under "people" to find folks who could give you advice or insight.

Reaching Out

Once you have found someone you'd like to network with, LinkedIn will show you whether you have any mutual connections. If so, your first move is to ask that mutual friend to make an introduction for you.


Hey, Dan! How are you? I'm finishing up a coding BootCamp and I noticed you have some connections in the field. Would you mind putting me in touch with Sarah Smith over at IBM? I'd love to ask about her experience doing backend work for a major corporation.


If you don't have a mutual connection in common, find a way to create context for your request and open the door to a response. Showing interest in someone's work and making an effort to develop common ground goes a long way.


Hi Tamara: That was a great article you posted about innovative marketing strategies! Will definitely be integrating some of these concepts into my own work now. Are there any other must-read publications you'd recommend for a new marketer?


Be straightforward if you're asking for something specific, like an informational interview.


Hi Lee: I really enjoyed the post you shared in the Creative Writers and Designers forum about storytelling for designers. I'm transitioning into design full-time, and I'm curious about your experience working for an advertising agency.

Are you open to a short informational interview? If so, do you have fifteen minutes sometime this week? Happy to meet for coffee near your office or set something up over Zoom.

Step 4: Spread the Word on Facebook and Twitter

While LinkedIn is the natural platform for professional networking, don't forget about the connections you can make on other social media platforms.

Twitter can be a great place to announce that you're job hunting. Instagram is useful for interacting with companies you are interested in. And Facebook (now Meta) can be a powerful networking tool –– specifically, the industry-relevant groups.

Finding Meta Groups

  • Select "Groups."
  • Use the search function to search job-relevant keywords, like "Public Relations Professionals" or "Society of Women Engineers."
  • Commit to being an active participant in a few valuable groups: comment often, ask smart questions, share your own insights, and help connect people when you can.

Engaging mindfully on these platforms can help you build a strong network, increase your visibility on the job market, and improve your professional reputation. You've got this!

Featured Image Credit: PixelsEffect / Getty Image

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