The local newspaper provides you with a wide variety of articles and personality profiles, as well. These are also sources you can use to develop contacts. Of greatest interest to you is the business section, which you should read regularly. Bring the perspective of a stockholder or industry executive to the articles you read: look for (and make a note of) the names of the experts, analysts, and company leaders who are quoted. Believe it or not, you can generate contacts from these names. You may never reach the president of IBM or the national sales manager of Xerox, but the vast majority of the sources quoted are accessible, and can be contacted by any ordinary human being willing to invest in the time and expense of a phone call.
Suppose, for example, you're interested in retailing. You've just read an article about a new mall opening in a nearby community; quoted prominently are several "spokespersons" for the major retailers planning to set up operations at the location slated for development. Each source identified by name in the article as a company representative should become part of your contact list.
When the time comes to speak with these people, you'll probably find favorable responses coming your way. Almost anyone will be flattered to receive a call from someone making reference to (and thereby reinforcing) his or her status as a "newsmaker." The chances are excellent that you'll be able to arrange some kind of interview or even get a referral.
Resources beyond your local newspaper, of course, should also be explored. The industry you've chosen probably has some sort of trade journal or magazine that's read by virtually everyone within the field. In show business, this publication would be Variety; in publishing, Publishers Weekly, one of the specialized livestock magazines is called, daringly enough. Sheep! Find out the name of the journal that applies to the field you've selected. Then track down a copy. Beware: subscriptions tend to be expensive. It's a good bet you can find back issues in any large urban library.
A regular feature of most such magazines is its calendar section, describing events and functions of interest to people in the industry. Many of these meetings are open to the public. Take the time and effort to attend one of these functions if at all possible. You will not only find out more about the industry, but you'll also have the opportunity to meet people. So jump right in and make the most of that opportunity. Make a point of meeting as many people as you can. Ask politely for their names. Find out what firms they represent. See how many will tell you how they got started in the business (more than you think will be flattered at the request). The people you speak with, of course, will serve as an initial point of reference at some later point in your job search.
Again, be honest about your interest in their business. Remember that doing so will only be to your advantage. After all, how many job hunters take the initiative to explore careers so thoroughly?
Trade shows and conventions can be fertile job hunting territory. The representatives manning the exhibits are there to talk to the people wandering from booth to booth. Professionals you speak with may not be prepared to talk about specific career opportunities, but they will most likely take the time to give you information about their company. Toward the end of the day, the exhibitors are often so tired from a full day of "working the crowd" that you may actually provide a pleasant break from the grind!
Career fairs are another good contact medium. Employers go to career fairs for two reasons: either to find new prospective employees or to present a positive image of their company as a matter of public relations. Even if the firm is looking for applicants, however, the personnel department will often serve as intermediary and will do their best to screen candidates.
Because there may be as much door closing as door opening at these affairs, you shouldn't convince yourself that a career fair can mean an on the spot job offer. But career fairs can be excellent opportunities to gather valuable, current information about a variety of employment possibilities.
Other contact sources might include your high school and college alumni groups, like old alums are often willing to perpetuate the "old boy network" (in which, thankfully, both "boys" and "girls" seem to be welcome these days). Call your school's alumni office there may already be some kind of referral network set up. Some colleges have established career advisory services along these lines. If yours hasn't, all colleges (and many high schools) have some kind of alumni directory. Use it. Concentrate not only on people who've been out of school for some years, but also on more recent grads. Sometimes people in your own class have the best, most practical information as a result of just having gone through the process of finding a job.
Even if you don't know the person you're calling, the two of you do have something in common; that alone is usually a valid reason to initiate the contact. Ask yourself: who would you rather help out, a person from your own college or high school, or someone with you've never heard of in your life? Don't be shy. Explore every possible lead.
Breaking the Ice
The fact is, though, most of us are shy to some degree, and meeting new people is never easy. Precisely because this is true, you must develop a system that not only makes you feel comfortable, but also gets you the desired results.
You must take the first step. Believe it or not, most people will respond favorably because they, too, are worried about meeting people. By taking the initiative, you've made life easier for them!
Once you've determined where and how you want to meet people what exactly do you say?