from teacher to research and insights

60 – Networking Career Change Advice from Danielle Blake


Danielle is a former teacher who used networking to land a new career with an education start-up as a research and insights associate. Before she made the transition out of the classroom, she taught high school English for five years in New York City. In this episode, Danielle shares the story of her career transition and some excellent tips for networking.

Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

From Teacher to Research and Insights Associate with Danielle Blake

Daphne Gomez:
Hi, Danielle. Thank you so much for being here today.

Danielle Blake:
Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Daphne Gomez:
Danielle, you are a former teacher. I’m excited to dive into your new role. But first, let’s talk a little bit about what got you into education in general.

Danielle Blake:
Yeah, definitely. So teaching actually wasn’t my first job. I studied English in college and was always really interested in education and other social justice issues and public health. I thought like maybe I’d be a lawyer, like a public interest lawyer and work on some of those issues.

My first job out of college, I was a paralegal at a law firm. And really quickly realized that wasn’t the right fit for me. I spent a lot of time in front of a computer scree. I started thinking about how I could still work in education, but spend more time with other people. So I applied to a bunch of teaching programs and alternate route programs and got in. And so I started teaching the following year. And I taught for five years in New York.

Daphne Gomez:
What ultimately led you to start to explore options outside of the classroom?

Exploring Options Outside the Classroom

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. So I split my time between two schools. So I worked first at this one school that I loved for a lot of reasons. But it did have a toxic environment that I know a lot of schools have. And so after a few years there, I decided to switch to another school that was actually really wonderful. I know people don’t say this a lot, but it was so functional, I worked with an amazing administrator. I felt like I had work-life balance, I was really happy with my pay and I was still not happy.

It was just became like once all those other things were in place. It made it more clear than ever that teaching itself was not the right fit. So I started to think about what might be a better fit for me.

Daphne Gomez:
That’s really interesting. And that doesn’t happen as often when I interview people on the podcast. Many people always say it was the environment that pushed me out, but that is part of the strategy that I always talk about is think about changing grade levels if you feel like your grade level team is toxic. Think about schools. If it’s your admin that you don’t get along with. But you think the district is a good fit for you. And then usually that brings the clarity of, you gave it the old college try.

When you were evaluating whether or not teaching was a good fit for you after you found that unicorn school district or school that you felt was a good fit, but still wasn’t the right career, did you have a lot of clarity or just a gut feeling? Because I feel like it’s hard to actually express, I don’t know why this isn’t right, but it’s just not right. That’s a personal thing, but where do you feel like you felt or you landed on that spectrum?

Analyzing Strengths as a Teacher

Danielle Blake:
Yeah, totally. So I’m a big overthinker. So I started it to think about, really started to overanalyze what it was that I liked and didn’t like. I was thinking about how I got into it, because I really just cared about education. But how we don’t really think as much about what teachers actually do. And so a lot of teaching is design work, like designing worksheets, PowerPoints. I’m the kind of a bad designer. It’s not something that comes naturally to me.

And same with facilitation. We’re facilitators, we’re facilitating class discussions. I don’t love public speaking. That is something that I had to work really hard on when I became a teacher. And so I just started thinking more about what are actually skill sets that play to my strengths? And then what jobs would those show up in?

So it was a pretty long process. I think I made the decision that I wanted to leave maybe a full year and a half before I actually made the move. But I started out with just a lot of volunteering. I took advantage of the summer before I left to, I thought I might be interested in like education policy. I was working with a local policymaker who worked on education issues to see if that was something I liked. So I started just dipping my toes in the water in different places to feel out what would feel like a better fit with what I actually enjoy doing.

Getting Career Clarity

Daphne Gomez:
And that’s a pretty good clarity. You knew that you didn’t like being the center of attention. And I already heard you touch on you loved social justice. You wanted to work in some sort of… It seems like you’re very intrinsically motivated, but you might want to be a little bit more behind the scenes. Maybe clerical sort of work, but not specifically center of attention. I’m the person on the YouTube videos for the social justice issues or doing the presentations on it, but still having an impact. Does that sound accurate?

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. It was so funny because when I was at the law firm, I was a 100% behind the scenes. Never even had meetings, really no interaction with other people. And then of course, when you’re a teacher, you’re really front and center. Like that first point of contact for all of your students. And so I really wanted something in the middle where I could do a lot more of my work independently, but still collaborate, still have a team and still work with other people who cared about a lot of the same things.

Daphne Gomez:
So what ultimately was the role that you ended up landing after you left the classroom?

Working in Education Outside the Classroom

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. So I got a job at a startup that does school-based telehealth. So it’s a really interesting position for me because all of our clients are schools. We work with school districts, but it’s not an instructional role. So we work with districts more to provide healthcare services for students. So the idea is that healthier students are better learners, they can stay in class, all of those good things that we hope for as teachers.

And so at that company, I’m a research and insights associate. So I actually sit on the marketing team. And what that basically means is I just support the marketing team with any sort of research that they need done. So a lot of times you might see like flyers or other materials that have maybe statistics or other pieces of evidence on them. And so part of my job is gathering all of those, fact checking, doing lit reviews, making sure the company has the most up-to-date information about students and student health.

And then I’ll also do things like gather information for case studies or white papers so that our company can show to other future school districts some of the successes that we’ve had in the past districts that we’ve worked with.

How Teaching Experience Impacts Danielle’s New Role

Daphne Gomez:
That’s a role that I’ve seen at multiple companies that I’ve worked for outside of the classroom. Where there’s someone on the marketing team. And often, if you’re working at an education company, they need to have a very solid understanding of education, of pedagogy of teacher pain points, because if not, when they’re starting to reach out and do this data research, they might ask questions that are leading or misleading without even really understanding it.

In my perspective, it was, or in my experience, they were classroom management tools. So they needed to ask specific questions of, do you feel like this part of this product was effective? Yes or no kinds of questions. And if they don’t really understand how teachers are going to be using the product in different ways, then they can’t really ask those questions to be able to say 95% of teachers love this, only 20% actually love this. And that means we shouldn’t put a lot of feet, effort into that part of our product, it’s not effective. What do you feel like set you up to be great in this position with your transferable skills and your own unique experience?

Research & Insights: Transferrable Skills Teachers Have

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. So I taught English. I was a high school English teacher. So one of the biggest skills I was leveraging when I was applying to jobs was my writing skills. Even though I didn’t necessarily have tons of published writing from past writing jobs, I spent so much time reading student papers, editing them, giving feedback. And a lot of the work I do now is based in writing.

Even when I’m doing research, usually the end product is some form of writing, something that we’ll share with potential districts who might want to join us or even things that we’ll put on our website. And so that was a really, really important skill.

And it’s also interesting, a lot of the work I do with finding statistics, it reminds me of a lot of the work I do with my students about citing sources. I was the teacher who was such a stickler for citing every single source. And now it really feels like that rests on my shoulders. If my company really got called out on a statistic or questioned on it, it would fall back on me of like where I found that information. So I think just having that research ability to find sources and keep track of them and cite them has been really big.

Pros & Cons of Working in the Corporate World

Daphne Gomez:
One thing that I talk about in the Teacher Career Coach Course is the difference between working at different types of companies. I’ve worked in some of the largest Fortune 500 companies in education. I’ve also worked at a very fast growing startup company and I have a startup company that I’m running right now with a team of about seven people. And with each of these types of companies, there are going to be different pros and cons.

So for a larger company, it’s going to be harder for you to work your way up a ladder, the career trajectory might be a little bit more competitive, where a startup company, you get to put your hands in all of these different types of roles and get really great experience, but it might be a little bit messier or stressful because everybody’s figuring out things as they go.

Do you feel like you were put into a company where you were set up for success with your own unique working style for collaboration?

Working as a Research & Insights Associate at a Startup Company

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. So it’s really interesting. When I first applied to jobs, I definitely was not interested in startups. I really saw myself working at a more established company. I really like structure. And everyone told me if you work at a startup, you have to be really cool with ambiguity and constant change. And that’s honestly not something that is always my strength. But when I found this company, I was really sold by their mission.

There’s a funny story about how I got the job, but I had actually applied for a different job than the one that I’m in right now. It was something more in an analytical role. And after I had the first conversation with them, they were like, “You’re not quite a fit for this role, but we feel like you have a skillset that could be really useful to our company. Let’s see if there’s somewhere else that you would fit well.” And that was how they ultimately connected me with the marketing team.

This was a position that they needed, but it wasn’t actually something that was posted online yet. And they created it. This is not super uncommon at startups just because, especially when they’re growing rapidly, they really just need good people who have the right background. If they feel like you have a skillset that would be useful, they will make a position or bring you on.

In that sense, it actually really worked to my benefit because even though there’s a lot of ambiguity that comes with having a job that doesn’t have written out job descriptions, even in my first few months there, we’ve been able to craft it to things that I really want to work on, and it’s constantly changing. So I really like being able to help create that role.

Finding the Right Fit at the Right Company

Daphne Gomez:
Yeah. And I hate generalizing or ever doing anything in a clear black and white. Every person is unique and there may be someone or there definitely are people out there who are listening who would not be a good fit at specific companies. But I feel like there’s more often than not this whisper or buzz of, oh, you don’t want to work at a startup.

And I’m like, “Who are you getting this research from? What is your definition of a startup?” Because the startup that I worked at had almost 200 people, but it still was classified as a startup. So it’s still a very large company, it’s larger than any of the schools I ever worked at as far as employee size goes.

I think that there’s a stigma around startups – it’s not a secure job, that there’s a lot of chaos when working there, but I’ve seen it as a win of you get your foot in the door in an industry you’re able to put that transferable skills. There are so are usually some great benefits that come with working at startups, whether or not they offer stock options for the company. I could get into that all day.

Love that you were able to actually find a company that believed in you so much that they wrote that specific job for you because that is not that unique. I was able to get an instructional design position at a startup company that they didn’t really have a clear job description for what my role was for the entire year.

Your Career Change & Networking

Daphne Gomez:
One of the things that you were able to do very successfully during your career search was learn about networking, which is something I really wanted to talk to you about. What do you feel like you did that was the most successful when it came to networking?

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. So everyone always says you have to network to get a job, everyone changes careers through networking. And I was definitely dreading that a little bit. I am an introvert. I don’t love talking to a million people. But I really started taking every chance I got to talk to people. And I think actually the pandemic really helped because suddenly there was no pressure to meet up in person and get coffee. Just anything could be like a quick Zoom or a quick phone call.

So I actually started by doing a bunch of informationals. With just reaching out on LinkedIn to people who were at companies that sounded interesting to me. Or in positions that I was interested in just to ask them about their company or about their job.

Over time, I just started talking to people I knew also. And just saying like both, hey, I’m looking for a job! But also trying to get really clear about what type of things I was looking for. Because I felt like the better that I could explain to people what kind of thing I wanted. The more of a chance that there was that they would hear of something and think of me and say, “Oh, this would be a really great fit,” and connect me to it.

All in all, I had probably 30 or 40 conversations with different people in the year leading up to the job search. And just like a lot of those conversations yielded really interesting results. I thought at first that the main goal of talking to people was just to get a job referral. I was like, “Okay, I’ll talk to them about their company.” And they’ll say, “Oh, if you apply, I’ll refer you.” But there was just a lot more that came out of it that was really helpful as I applied to jobs.

Career Networking within Your Own Circle

Daphne Gomez:
I want to talk on a couple of the points that you made. Those are all great points. First thing, you said that you heard it from me to start having clarity and asking the people you know. For anyone who has not heard me talk about this, I definitely have four full videos on networking strategies in the Teacher Career Coach Course.

If you have not told your friends and your family that you are interested in a role and what direction you’re looking for, you need to be a little bit more vocal about it. Because people are never going to make the inference to offer you positions that they hear about. And it’s also a taboo to assume that you would take a corporate training position. Or assume that you would take the research and insights associate position at a health and education startup. Nobody wants to assume.

You’re not going to call up your uncle and be like, “Oh, I saw a role for marketing.”
And he is like, “I’ve always worked in sales.”
Unless he said, “I want to work in marketing someday to you.”
And then it’s going to spark that, oh, I need to tell my uncle that this role is available. Maybe he’d be interested in it.

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. Just to add that really quickly. I think it is so important. I had a friend, another teacher who was applying to jobs at the same time as me and she did not tell anyone. And I think there’s a fear of, oh, it’ll be embarrassing if I don’t end up getting a job. But everyone knows I was trying to. And so she was trying to keep it a secret until she actually got a job. But I just don’t think that really helps in the job search at all.

And the other thing that happened was that a lot of friends would send me jobs. But they would send me positions for like curriculum writers or things that were very closely tied to teaching because that was the only thing that they could imagine. So yeah, just so important to really plan those ideas of what you’re looking for.

Daphne Gomez:
And it’s okay also to use the sentence frame of: but I’m open to other opportunities because I’m still exploring. Just having that sentence frame built out of: I’m looking for roles in curriculum design and professional development. It does not necessarily need to be in education.

If it’s a healthcare company that needs someone create their eBooks, I’d also be interested in that. Just putting out as much information as you can. So people are like, oh, that does sound like something that Danielle would be into? Because they can’t ever really assume. And everybody’s absorbed in their own lives and not constantly thinking about everything you would hope they’d be thinking about with you.

Reaching Beyond Your Circle to Network for New Careers

Daphne Gomez:
The second thing I heard you say is you started reaching out to people with the idea that potentially they would get you a job. And this is something that I talk about in the Teacher Career Coach Course too, because so many teachers don’t have experience with networking. One of the biggest things is people reach out on LinkedIn and they say, “Hey, here’s something generic. I saw that you have bangs. Can I be your friend?” And then the second thing is, do you have any ends at this company?

Never go into it thinking that someone is going to give you a job. Especially not a stranger that you do not have an authentic connection with. Because that is somebody’s reputation on the line.

It is very scary to work at a company and say, I recommend Danielle. If I do not have a personal relationship with her, and that could just be something over the internet. You can build those over the internet in authentic way, which is something that I talk about. But go in it with the mindset of what can I learn from the knowledge base that is this person that I’m reaching out? And make it very short and attainable, easy yes’s or no’s.

So Danielle, I see that you work as a research and insights associate. That’s something I’d be interested learning a little bit more about. Do you have a favorite blog that I could learn more about? And just leave it at that. That’s such an easy: oh, here’s a Facebook group or here’s a blog that talks all about this industry research. That’s what I read all the time. And then maybe in two months, circle back around and say where your progress is in learning about this role.

I’ve had people reach out with the best intentions asking me to describe my role. A project from the beginning to the end in full detail. They sent me about five bullet points that would’ve taken me two hours to complete. And so I never would’ve responded to it. It was just too much of labor to respond. But I’ve had people who reached out that just said, “Hey, can you point me in the right direction or tell me if I’m in the right direction if I’m worrying about this.”

from teacher to research and insights

Making & Getting Referrals when Networking for New Career Roles

Danielle Blake:
About referrals, it’s interesting because I feel like it goes both ways. So I had some people who they’re putting themselves on the line, their name on the line if they refer you. And some people are only really comfortable referring people who they know really well. But then at some companies, people actually get a monetary bonus for referring. So they really want to.

So the way I would always do it was just to reach out to somebody on LinkedIn. Say, “I’d love to hear your perspective on working at this company.”
And if they reciprocated, I might ask them for a brief conversation.

Then if I saw a job opening that I wanted a referral for, instead of asking directly, even though I do usually think asking directly is a good thing. I might just say, “Do you have any suggestions that would set me up to be as successful as possible applying to this position?” Sometimes they would write back and say, I’m happy to refer you, and sometimes they wouldn’t. That would be an answer.

Daphne Gomez:
Nailed it. Nailed it. But I could not give any better advice on that. Because yes, it is important to say: Oh, by the way, I already talked to you two weeks ago. I just want to let you know I’m applying for this specific role at your company. Do you have any insight into who the hiring manager is? Or anything I could do to leverage myself a tiny bit better?

And that’s when they’ll say, “Oh, shoot, let me put you on.” I think it’s like sometimes Lever is where they put it in for their referral bonus. But yeah, 100% it’s not always a negative.

It’s just, it does make people uncomfortable if you flat out ask for, can you help me get my foot in the door at blank company? Especially if it’s not someone that you have established a relationship with. Or if they’re not answering any of your questions or giving you advice. Then that’s an awkward question to ask anyone.

Networking Conversations that Lead to a Career in Research & Insights

Who did you feel like you learned the most from during your networking? Do you feel like there’s one standout person that just…

Danielle Blake:
Not really. There were more just lots of little conversations that seemed to all link together. Like when I started applying to research jobs, I remember I had a conversation with one woman who was a qualitative researcher at a company and she asked me if had a portfolio. I said, “No.” Because I hadn’t thought about that. She said, “Would you like me to share with you the portfolio that I use when I apply to jobs so you can see an example?” I said, “That would be fantastic.” So she sent me her portfolio.

Then a few conversations later with another researcher at an EdTech company, and I had asked her if she used a portfolio when she had applied and she hadn’t, but she said, she sees them a lot from the hiring end and told me she’d be happy to look mine over. So then I created one. And she looked it over and gave me feedback. So it was these little ways that these different conversations threaded together.

Or like I was saying before how I wasn’t really looking at startups at first. Then I had one conversation where someone really encouraged me to because she was like, “You know that everyone applies to the same five EdTech companies that are huge and in every school and every teacher knows them.” And she really pointed out that I might have better luck getting a position at a lesser known company and told me about a newsletter that she gets in her email every morning that highlights all of the new EdTech startups. And I would never have found that without that conversation. So there were just a lot of small things that really gave me momentum as I was looking.

Benefits of Networking when You’re Changing Careers

Daphne Gomez:
I think three of the main benefits that you get from networking, and tell me if this was your experience, would be one, your comfortability with the subject matter. You start to understand it. Two, you start more naturally using the academic vocabulary that you would potentially be using in the interviews. And then three, just confidence of hearing people talk about it makes it very real.

This is something that if you only read it in a blog about a research role at an education company, you may have started to feel intimidated by it. But once you talked to 10, 15 people in these research roles, you started to see, this is something that I would feel comfortable with, some of these people sounded like me, or potentially looked like me or resonated with me in a way that it’s easier for me to envision it.

And that’s really why I made this podcast. I did it very strategically of, I wanted people to hear former teachers talking about their new roles, because I think that it’s important to help build that confidence of you can do this too, it’s going to be a learning curve. Do you feel like networking helped you in those areas?

Danielle Blake:
Yeah, a 100%. It really gave me just a lot of opportunities to practice using that language and to hear other people talking about it. Even things like doing the portfolio review was so helpful because it gave me a chance to use some of that language in writing and then have someone read it over and really ask, am I using these terms the right way?

There’s one thing that is used in research called affinity mapping. And I’m sure we’ve all seen this. It’s basically where you put ideas on Post-it Notes and then you stick them to a wall and group them in different ways. It’s something that teachers do all the time in classroom activities. I had done it in some teacher professional development sessions that I’d been in. And I just didn’t know I had a name to it. And then I was like, “Oh yeah, I definitely know how to do affinity mapping.” That is a skill that I have, but I still felt really weird saying it because it was just not something that I was used to talking about. So being able to get that feedback was super helpful.

Using Networking to Upskill for Your New Career

Daphne Gomez:
I see so many overlaps when I took the pivot into these companies. Even I don’t know if you work with, I think it’s CSAT. So it’s I think customer success and I would have to look up the exact acronym, but it’s I think usually between one and five, it’s whether or not the customers are satisfied. But that’s something as easy as a quick form that you send to the parents, are you satisfied with how I’ve been doing this specific part of my like ClassDojo lessons? And if you get a lot of twos or threes, then that’s okay, how do I improve on that? But if you get a lot of fives, okay, they’re pretty happy.

That’s something that I’ve seen market and research people sending out. I’m like, “Oh, that’s super simple.” It sounds complicated, it sounds like it’s not something I have exposure to, but once you really see it, you’re able to see how it actually translates into things that you were already doing in the classroom.

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. And I know you’ve spoken about this before on past episodes about trying out some of those things or gaining those skills in the classroom. One of the things that I came across when I was applying to research jobs is they really wanted people who knew how to write surveys.

And I was like, “Oh, I survey my students all the time, I ask them about if they’re happy with their groupings, I ask them about if we’re moving too fast or too slow.” But then these companies would ask what program I was doing my surveys in. And I was using Google Forms because we were like a Google-based school. A lot of them wanted me to know things like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo or Qualtrics. And so I got to a point where I was like, okay, the next survey I do in class, I’m going to just give it through Qualtrics. So did that, added it to my resume and then was able to talk about it in interviews. So just lots of ways to start that skill building while you’re still in the classroom.

Daphne Gomez:
I love that. And even seeing these names are so intimidating to people. But I in my instructional design position, the company that I was working for, we used SurveyMonkey. And it’s just a couple more bells and whistles than Google Forms. You guys do not feel intimidated by these platforms. They are a YouTube tutorial away. SurveyMonkey I think would probably take you a good 40 minutes to learn very well.

But when it comes to creating surveys, I’m sure that there’s a lot of thought put between whether or not it’s a true and false question, whether or not it’s what it, is it a Likert score? I think are one of them.

Reaching Back to Your Network for Career Growth

Daphne Gomez:
I think another benefit of all the networking that you did, it sounds like you are very, very happy in the company that you are at, but you also now have a new role on your LinkedIn title probably. And you have all these contacts in the same industry.

So in two or three years, if you’re looking for even more career growth, you could always continue to circle back around with some of the people that you had initially messaged with and start to leverage that network further and further and further to potentially switch to a different company if you ever wanted to.

Daphne Gomez:
And I know that that’s usually not what former teachers want to hear. But in other industries, you don’t stay somewhere 100% for forever. It’s not as expected. At education companies, I feel like I’ve seen turnover rate between three or five years because you do get better opportunities, and whether or not you’re happy in your position right now, you start to get a little bit more comfortable with continuing to grow and continuing to change and push yourself especially with if it’s a better position.

Danielle Blake:
Yeah, totally. So one of the things that I at the very beginning, I didn’t understand about networking was I was like, okay, so you have this one conversation with somebody, how do you build the relationship or how do you keep up with them, especially if you’re reaching out to so many different people? And so it’s not something that I was actively doing all the time, but it was always looking for little opportunities to touch base.

One person I’d spoken to really early on actually changed positions during my job search. So I sent her a little LinkedIn message, oh, I saw you got a new job, congratulations, that sort of thing. Or if I saw something in the news that related to someone’s position, I might reach out to them.

Circling Back to the Network who Helped You on the way to Your New Career

Danielle Blake:
But the biggest thing was that when I actually got a job, that was a great reason to circle back to all the people who had helped me throughout the job search and update them. And so it was great to have that touch base of here’s where I landed. Most people were just really happy that I found something and really happy that they were able to help. And totally, and now we’re mostly connected on LinkedIn. And so they might share things on LinkedIn and it’s just an easy way to keep in touch and have that network.

Daphne Gomez:
And I think always thinking that networking may end up being a long term game, a long term strategy, because you might be talking to someone who really does feel a connection with you, but they do not have any open opportunities for you. That’s something that I have shared the story before, but when I first got my role outside the classroom, I constantly had teachers coming up to me when I was doing, like speaking at national conferences, they were always saying like, “How did you get this job?” But not a lot of substance.

I finally had one person who connected with me via a mutual contact that just said like, “Hey, Daphne, there’s someone who just wants to talk, it’s only going to be for 15 minutes, once again that easy yes.” It’s easy to talk to someone on the phone for 15 minutes. If you say 30 minutes to an hour, that’s harder to promise, but it’s only going to be 15 minutes. She just wants to ask you a little bit about how you got this job, what advice you have for her if she wants to take a similar career trajectory from the classroom.

I had the 15 minutes, she was lovely. And I let her know honestly, the role that I have, it’s very limited, there’s no openings at the company that I have right now. It’s very competitive for the role, but I wish you luck. I’ll keep my eyes open for you.

Eight months later, there was a role open, and I reached out to that friend and said, hey, that person probably has a job by now. But she was the first person that I genuinely thought of because she was the first person in that entire span of time that asked me for advice.

So you might be planting seeds right now that end up circling back around and they say, “Okay, well, Danielle reached out, we had this great conversation.” And now maybe there’s a research director role, something that’s like executive level in five years and they might say, “Well, we’re looking for someone that we know has experience. Let’s look at everyone on our LinkedIn.” And you might end up being a candidate for something like that just based off of the seeds that you planted today.

Finding Career & Other Commonalities when Networking

Danielle Blake:
Totally. Yeah. And I think there’s two things there. One is that when I would reach out to people on LinkedIn, I think this is really important is that I would really try to personalize it and to get away from a generic message. So I would look through their page or try to find out about them.

And if there was even one thing that we had in common, I would try to mention it, like, oh, I saw that you went to the same college as me, or we both did the same study abroad program, or even if it was as simple as you are also a former English teacher and really to have a specific ask, like, I’d love to hear about what it was like transitioning from teaching to this position, just so they feel like you are really interested in learning from them and you’re not just sending out this message to a 100 people.

Daphne Gomez:
I think one of the mistakes that a lot of teachers are doing right now on LinkedIn are they’re siloing themselves into communities with other job seekers that may not have the information that they are seeking out. And I think that it’s very important. Once again, I talk about this in the course. It’s very important to have that community be able to meet with people who are experiencing the same thing that you’re experiencing. But it’s like going to a job fair and walking around and only talking to job seekers.

And it’s also like, think about the first year that you were teaching, if you only got your information from first year teachers, you would potentially be led astray on a lot of best practices and information that you would’ve been better off asking someone who had actually been in the industry for three to five years is usually a sweet spot to look at.

So I love all of the groups of former teachers who are linking together and starting to develop strategies. But making sure that you are not just focusing your networking with other people who are actively job seeking for the same roles and branching out. And with that also, there are larger names in different industries that, for instructional design, for example, there’s larger names in instructional design that constantly are sharing jobs.

Those are great people to follow. But those are not going to be the best people for you to send DMs to and say, well, I sent DMs to these five huge people that thousands of other people are probably DMing. Your best bet is looking for someone you have in contact a second or third connection and saying, “Oh, I saw that you have this job. You’re probably not getting thousands of DMs because you’re not like an active, constantly posting. And I also know that you know so-and-so. Do you mind if I talk to you about your instructional design position?” Do you feel like you’ve started to go in any of those missteps when it was networking?

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. Not so much only because I guess I’m shy. I guess that translates even to online, I’ll overthink before I send messages. But I like what you’re saying. I do think it’s really nice when you’re going through the process to have one or two other people who are doing it too. Just for accountability and keeping you motivated. But totally agree that it makes a lot more sense to be networking with people who have already made a career jump or who are in positions where they can really help you out.

But also made me think of two other things. One is that the more conversations you have, the better, because there were some times where I wasn’t personally connected to somebody I wanted to reach out to, but I saw that somebody I had a conversation with two months ago was, and you can loop back to that first conversation and say, “Hey, I’d really like to chat with this person. Would you be comfortable making an introduction?” And usually, that’s a fairly small ask. If they have a good relationship, they might do that.

Reaching Out to Hiring Managers

The other thing, I don’t know if this falls under networking, but this was a tip I got that worked. I only tried it maybe three or four times, but one of the times it got me an interview. So I think that was well worth it.

On LinkedIn, if you see a job posted, you may be able to see the poster, the hiring manager. I would sometimes apply and then send them a really short DM. Just saying, “Hey, just applied to this position. But wanted to reach out directly.” Quick background, give them like two sentences about where I was coming from. Then write like, “Look forward…” Or like, “Hope I have the chance to interview or hope you have an opportunity to speak further.”

You don’t want to overwhelm them and they might not read it, but if they do, it might just be a little thing that makes you stand out from the pack. In the instance that I got the interview, the hiring manager had done a similar program in our 20s. He had done that at a different time, but the same program. And so I guess he saw my LinkedIn profile and saw some piece of him in me and decided to give me a chance. So you just never know where those messages are going to lead to.

Limitations of Applying to Jobs on Linkedin

Daphne Gomez:
Because LinkedIn is, I hate to say it, not the best place to apply for jobs. So in California, and I think probably other states as well, we have this place to send your resumes for educational jobs called EDJOIN. And it’s so easy for you to rapid fire apply to 200 jobs. And when things were competitive, if I only had three years teaching experience, well, I could guess that 200 other teachers rapid applied to all the same positions that I did in the same area. So all they needed was four years teaching experience and they were more experienced than me and I wouldn’t get the interview.

That’s the same frustration with LinkedIn is if you do not have a very specific resume, a very specific LinkedIn strategy and you’re rapid fire applying to all these positions, other people are doing so as well. It’s very hard to get people’s attention. And hiring managers are going to only probably see a very small percentage. Sending that tiny message shows them, no, this is a job that you’re actually interested in and not just rapid fire applying to.

If your resume was not going to be one that they saw, it might give them a tiny bit more of a chance to double-check your LinkedIn. See if there’s anything that sparks their interest, in this case that they did. But I love that you share that strategy. I think it’s very, very important.

Danielle Blake:
Yeah. And it’s a great distinction. And the one thing that I found LinkedIn really helpful for was being able to set up job alerts. So I could see when new jobs were posted. But I would a lot of times see them on LinkedIn, then go apply on the company website. And then go back to LinkedIn to see if I knew anyone who worked at that company and see if I could reach out to them.

Daphne Gomez:
You nailed so many of the best talking points of networking in this. Danielle, I’m so excited for you. I’m excited to see where you go in your career and to keep in touch with you. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story with our audience.

Danielle Blake:
Thank you so much for having me.

Important Links

Related Blog: Teacher Networking: 5 Tips for Your Career Transition

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