How to Build a Job Search Network From Scratch

By Frank Traditi & C.J. Hayden

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, you may feel as if finding a new job seems hopeless. The company you worked for may no longer exist. Your whole community may have been swept away. You are separated from your friends, family, and co-workers. You've relocated to a new city and don't know anyone there. How do you start looking for a new job from this place?

It may feel like you'll never recover from this disaster and find employment, but there is hope, and there is a way. Career experts agree that using your network of personal and professional relationships is the fastest and most effective way to locate a new job. It's true that you may be able to find openings through Internet job postings and newspaper want ads, or by working with agencies or recruiters. But you'll be competing with lots of other job seekers applying for the same positions.

Statistics show that more people ultimately get hired as the result of a referral or lead from a friend, relative, or professional colleague than by any other method. This is where your network comes in. Your network is a community from which you can find out about open positions, companies that need your expertise, and well-connected people who can assist your job search. People like to help other people. And, in your current situation, there are so many people who are ready to help.

How can you build a network like this from scratch when you've never done it before, or you've lost touch with everyone you knew? Here are some suggestions for creating a community of people who can assist you in this great time of need.


Ask for help. Many people want to do something to help hurricane evacuees. Give them the chance to make a contribution. Identify yourself as a Katrina survivor in your conversations with new people, and ask if they will help you find work.

Stretch outside your comfort zone. Speaking with new people and asking for help may be uncomfortable for you. This is a time to stretch yourself. You can learn new skills now that will serve you for the rest of your career.

Be open to new ideas and possibilities. Instead of hearing an idea and saying "that won't work for me," ask instead, "How can I make this work?" Almost every new idea has some element that can help you.


Join an affinity group in your new location. People like to help others who share their interests. Find a community group, church, sports team, or hobby club where you can make new friends quickly because you have something in common. Meet the parents of your children's new friends at school. Your kids may have an easier time than you of making new friends quickly. Ask them to introduce you to the families they get to know.

Attend the local school's theatrical, music, and sporting events. You'll meet the active parent community and make connections with local business owners.

Volunteer for a relief organization. So much help is needed and you will make many local connections with both the organizers and other workers.

Work for a temp agency. Don't worry if the available jobs are below your level of qualifications. Working for local businesses will connect you with the community.

Visit the local Chamber of Commerce. Ask for their welcome package and to speak with one of their welcoming committee members or Ambassadors. These are often community leaders who know a lot about local businesses.

Attend meetings of service clubs. Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions Club, and other local groups have community service as their charter. Many members are business owners or well connected in the area.

Join a job search club. These are sponsored by the Unemployment or Workforce Development office, Chamber of Commerce, Experience Unlimited chapter, community center, or local college. Meet other job seekers and gain a support system and more connections.

Ask a librarian. They can help you find many local resources, including those not found on the Internet. While you are there, check out the upcoming events at the local library.


Ask your professional association for help. Many associations are offering extra support for Katrina survivors. Members of your association want to help those affected and don't know how to reach them. Let them know where you are.

Write to the presidents or executives of companies you would like to work for. Tell them your story and ask if they would meet with you to share contacts or ideas. Business leaders want to help, too.

Ask your college or training school's alumni association to send you a contact list of graduates in your new city. You have an immediate connection with anyone who went to your school.

Sign up for a local class in your specialty. You'll have an instant community of others in your profession.

Join online discussion groups supporting job seekers and/or your profession. You can network with hundreds of people at once.


Look for old friends online. If you have lost your address book, look for friends and family outside the disaster area using the online white pages via Yahoo! or Google. To find those who have had to re-locate, try one of the many web sites which are re-connecting Katrina evacuees. Type "Katrina survivor metasearch" into Google or Yahoo to find sites where you can search many databases at once.

Trust the postal service to forward mail even if the address no longer exists. The U.S. Postal Service is working hard to forward all mail from the disaster area. Be sure to file a change of address for your own residence so friends and family can find you, too.

Ask friends and family not affected by the storm to contact their networks and ask for help reconnecting you in your new city. People you already know may have contacts in your new location who can help.


Every time you meet a new person or re-connect with an old friend, be specific about exactly how they can best help you find work. Telling people, "Keep me in mind if you hear of any openings," is a start. But a better approach is to say, "I'm looking for a job as a ... bookkeeper in the Houston area... waitress in the Midtown neighborhood... project manager in the construction industry." Then ask, "Do you know anyone in that area or line of work I could talk to?" That way you will continue to expand your network.

Copyright © 2005, Frank Traditi & C.J. Hayden

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