When Pat McCarty left the financial services/banking industry last year to pursue a career in teaching, he had no idea what lay ahead for him. He started as a "Career Switcher" in the School of Education in Fall 2009 to pursue a graduate-level education degree and teaching certification. Expecting to substitute teach during his first year of studies and then pursue teaching jobs in his second year, it was quite a surprise when he landed a sought-after teaching position at a local private school in his first semester at Regent. His story is a great example of how proactive networking skills help open doors.
Pat's networking success started when he began looking for substitute teaching opportunities at local private schools at the onset of his studies at Regent. At each school he called, Pat would share a 30-second "elevator speech" highlighting both his short-term desire to substitute teach and his long-term career ambitions. Where possible, he followed up each call with a short face-to-face meeting with the decision-makers at the school with the primary goals of communicating his enthusiasm and standing out in this competitive job environment. (Pat calls this a "grip-and-grin" meeting.) As he expected, this approach landed him a few substitute jobs. But it also landed him with a break he didn't expect.
A few months after starting his program at Regent, he received a call in October from Norfolk Christian Schools asking him to interview for a teaching position in their high school. Frankly, he wondered if they'd made a mistake. But either his grip-and-grin approach worked, or someone in his network put in a good word for him in the right places. In either case, Pat ended up being hired to teach Earth Science and Geometry while still in his first semester at Regent. Pat knew that meeting whomever you can is key to building a professional network, and he wasn't shy about getting out there and making connections.
Pat's encouragement to other students is that "you never know where your opportunities will come from. The majority of hires come from channels that you never expect. Managers are inundated with good people seeking jobs, and you've got to find a warm introduction in order to get in the door." Pat acknowledges that networking is a skill that must be practiced, and also encourages the use of informational interviews to open doors and meet potential new contacts.
On the subject of making cold calls/connections, Pat encourages job seekers to "write to your contact, mentioning in your letter/email that you will call at a specific time. Make sure you call when you say you will. Then, when you make your call, you can say, 'They're expecting my call.' This helps you get past the gatekeepers."
Pat's final advice is that, "passion and enthusiasm sell every time. If you can convey to whomever you're talking to that you really want to be there, not just because you need a job, you will open doors for yourself. Have passion and enthusiasm for what it is you desire to do. It's infectious and contagious, and opens all kinds of doors."