When to Tap That Connection

June 8, 2010 at 11:02 am Leave a comment

Recently, when I was speaking to a group of soon-to-graduate journalism students in a Washington program about job hunting, this question came up: How do you make good use of a connection you have? The young journalist posing the question has a family connection at a top-flight organization, one she recognizes that she doesn’t have enough experience to join yet, and likely won’t for a while. Yet she has this golden “ticket” — an important contact there who could open doors.

Her query raised a good issue, one that many transitioning professionals must grapple with at one time or another: When to tap a connection that could do your career a lot of good. While it would be ill-advised to squander such an opportunity, making use of it too soon — or in the wrong way — could backfire, so one needs to approach this situation carefully. It’s also more evidence that networking can be a complicated and delicate process that requires as much well-thought-out attention as preparing a polished resume or researching an organization you’re considering joining.

Here are some tips on how to best make use of connections:

*Do so early on and regularly, but don’t ask for a job. Don’t even necessarily ask an important connection to do anything to help you — until you’re at the level where you could join that organization and not be considered to have done so only because you had an “in.” The advice I gave to the woman about to get her graduate journalism degree is to tell her connection of her interest in the organization and ask if you can stay in touch. If they agree (which they’ll likely do if you have a real connection to them, and they may be flattered at your interest and impressed that you didn’t ask for “help”)  take advantage of this. At this point, send them your resume or a short bio, saying you wanted to remind them of your experience.

*Stay in touch and keep them in the loop about your career. Don’t expect busy connections to know where you’ve gone and what you’ve been up to in recent years. Regularly — without becoming a pest — send writing samples and offer them information on topics you know that will interest them. Find ways to keep the connection going without asking for something until you’re ready.

*If they direct you to someone else in the organization as a point of contact, be in touch with that person. Often they will send you to someone else, as dealing with the boss or a leader in the organization may not be appropriate, especially if you’re just starting out. Then follow the guidelines above. Treat this person as your point of contact and don’t remind them too often of your “real” connection in the organization — they know that and they may find it annoying if you keep bringing it up. Be careful not to go above this person’s head (and don’t CC your head-honcho contact on your online discussions with them, for instance) and say, contact their boss if they don’t get in touch with you right away when you email them. They often are in a position to hire or recommend you for opportunities — this is a gift your connection has provided you, so use it wisely.

*Then, when the time is right, strike — fully tapping your connection for a job in the organization and making the best case for your candidacy for a position there. If you’ve smoothly paved the way leading up to this, you will likely have some doors opened here on your behalf. Take good advantage!

*Some good hiring news — Coral Davenport, a reporter who has been covering energy and environmental issues at CQ for the past several years, is heading to Politico in Arlington to be part of their energy/environmental team. Congratulations to Coral! And this is further evidence that mastering a specialty beat is a great way to secure career success!

*And some not-so-good-news about health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers. Unless Congress passes an extension retroactively (which is always possible), workers who lose their jobs on or after June 1 in a “qualified” layoff will no longer be eligible to receive federal help to cover 65% of their premium costs for extending their health coverage under COBRA. This is something that has helped ease the financial pain of a layoff for many workers over the past year. Here are the details from MarketWatch.com:

Cobra subsidy for jobless workers likely to end

*And here are some fresh job and freelance leads to check out or pass along:

*Media Match is hiring for a senior communications specialist to join a public information office in Rockville:
Senior Communication Specialist
Media Match – Rockville, MD
We are hiring a Senior Communications Specialist to join the team in our Public Information Office. We handle internal and external communications for the nation’s… $71 an hour
From media-match

*The IRS has an opening in D.C. for a public affairs specialist:

Public Affairs Specialist
Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Washington, DC
of communication and skill in applying this knowledge in the development of strategies to disseminate complex information to consumers through the communication… $105,211 a year
From Internal Revenue Service

*This opportunity could be a good one for a transitioning journalist/manager seeking to move into the association world — the American Diabetes Association in Alexandria has an opening for an associate director of external communications:

American Diabetes Association – Alexandria, VA
relevant communications plans. * Supports management of corporate brand and reputation. * Works with colleagues in Marketing & Communications, to develop…
From washingtonpost.com

*The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in Arlington is looking for a writer-senior group benefit communications advisor:

Writer – Sr. Group Benefit Communications Advisor
National Rural Electric – Arlington, VA
Sr. Group Benefit Communications Advisor IRC11707… our marketing and communications division provides strategic and tactical communications support for…
From Monster

*InvestmentNews is looking for a reporter in D.C. to cover the financial services industry:

InvestmentNews is seeking a deadline-oriented reporter to provide coverage on the financial services industry, with a strong emphasis on developments affecting the financial advice business. This person will report on subjects such as tax issues, estate planning and philanthropy.

This person will also be expected to cover live events in Washington, including Congressional hearings, SEC meetings and will also be expected to travel outside of the capitol to attend industry conferences or meet with the InvestmentNews’ management team in New York.  This person will provide coverage for our flagship InvestmentNews weekly newspaper, our daily e-newsletter and our special reports. In addition, this reporter would also be expected to take part, and in some cases oversee webcasts, round-table discussions and conference panels. The position is based in DC and involves being a part of a team of U.S.-based reporters.

If you are a news hound with six to ten years of experience, particularly in covering financial services or financial advice, we encourage you to apply.


  • Six to ten years of professional news reporting experience in a deadline-driven environment, especially in working to daily and weekly deadlines.
  • Demonstrated ability to break hard-hitting news.
  • Bachelor’s degree in journalism or related field.
  • Ability to develop a wide variety of sources, including those on Capitol Hill and within such regulatory bodies as the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
  • Ability to turn complex subject matter into clear, well-organized news stories and to translate jargon into meaningful news to an informed audience.
  • Ability to work collaboratively, take direction and be flexible.

Crain Communications offers a competitive salary, a generous benefits package, and a friendly work environment. This is a great time to join our organization — a well established publishing leader.  To apply for this position please visit our website at www.crain.com and search under the employment section.

*Need to Know News has an opening in D.C. for an economics reporter:

Economic Reporter needed for fast growing news agency in Washington, D.C..  Must have strong grasp of economic data (GDP, NFP, PPI, CPI, etc), succinct, accurate and speedy writing style.  Strong interest and/or experience in financial markets including any or all of FX, Fixed Income Futures, Oil and Products, Metals.  An understanding and/or interest in economic policy is a plus as well. We would like to add an Economics Reporter to our fast paced, team oriented office in Washington, D.C.  Compensation will depend on experience.

Please send resumes to jobs@needtoknownews.com

*The Atlanta Post, an African-American business publication, is seeking a freelance business reporter — this writer could work remotely:
An African-American business publication is looking for an experienced business reporter for our online publication. The freelance reporter would be expected to write Wall Street Journal quality stories about African-American owned companies and businesses. This person should be well-versed on a myriad of finance and business topics, come up with his/her own story ideas from time to time, find reliable sources and conduct thorough research. Ideally, the person would have experience and interest in covering the media business (startups, venture capital firms, acquisitions, etc). Reporters would be expected to submit an article every two weeks.

Please email (in the body of the email): a brief description of your experience, resume and two relevant writing samples to editorial@atlantapost.com. Only qualified writers with at least two years of experience should apply. This is a freelance position that would eventually become full-time for the right person. Compensation is .50/word for stories between 800-1000 words.

*And to wrap up today’s listings, Haute Living Online is coming to D.C. and looking for a freelance writer to cover the luxury market in the area:

Haute Living online is expanding into D.C. We’re looking for a writer who can cover the luxury market there. It’s a freelance gig, 25 to 30 posts a month for $500. It comes out to about $25 an hour. But you really have to have the connections to do it.

Those interested should send an e-mail at susan@hauteliving.com.

Haute Living is second only to Robb Report for online visitors, and says they are pretty close to catching them.

Happy hunting!



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