The most common job search advice you’ll hear these days is to network. I found that a challenge at first, because nearly everyone I knew professionally was in media, and the minute I took the buyout from the newspaper where I’d worked as an editor, feature writer, and book critic, the financial markets blew up and the media and publishing industries went into panic mode, further downsizing already bare-bones staffs.

Newspapers and print journalism in general were fighting for their very existence at the same time I was fighting for a job. What point would there be to calling up editors I knew were overseeing layoffs?

Still, I attacked on all fronts, and learned the difference between networking in the sense of hitting up your friends for jobs, and building a network, which means getting and developing new contacts in a variety of fields where your skills would be translatable.

I set up an informational interview with a news editor at a radio station, thinking my skills could transfer to broadcast media. But when the news director walked me from the lobby to his office, we passed a graveyard of empty cubicles, and he said, “This used to be my staff.”

I accelerated my writing for two parenting blogs (I am the author of a parenting book about the over-the-top youth sports culture, Revolution in the Bleachers) to beef up my web experience on my resume. And I contacted friends who work at websites to get advice and contacts, and to hear of job openings. I dipped my toe in writing marketing copy and press releases for an author who just published her first book.

Through it all, I continued to write freelance pieces for editors—my former colleagues—at the San Francisco Chronicle and other print and online publications, to keep my name out there, to have a little income coming in besides my unemployment checks (but not so much as to jeopardize my unemployment benefits).

Close to the end of my year of living perilously, I decided if the job market wasn’t going to invite me in, maybe I’d crash the party and think up my own job (besides being a freelancer, which I enjoy but is an inadequate and unreliable income). In August I contacted my daughter’s private high school and found they needed someone to help improve the school’s website and write for its online newsletter that goes out to 7,000 parents, alumni and donors. So now I’m producing videos for the website and contributing freelance stories to the e-News and hoping it will lead to a full-time job.

I’m also writing and editing on contract for a medical website, which is a stretch for me, but as the employment advisers keep saying, in this economy, you may have to reinvent yourself. That’s especially true for print journalists, whose industry is on life support. A high school friend is the CEO, so she contacted me when she had an opening knowing I was looking.

So I guess all my opportunities have fallen into the category of networking. I hate it when the experts are right.

In sum, here are six of the best job search tips I've discovered, all of which involve sharing of information and contacts:

  • Connect with past co-workers, bosses and contacts. This helps them keep you in mind when there’s an opening, and they may know of a job or a person you should seek out.
  • Join online professional support groups.
  • Check to find one that fits your experience. It has a list of over 600 professional associations and societies by industry. When you network, ask people if they are on LinkedIn. Then add them to your network and stay in touch.
  • Put social networking information on your business card. Potential employers or contacts can look up your professional profile.
  • Ask former colleagues to write recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. Recruiters and employers really look at them.
  • Check out online forums where fellow unemployed people share their experiences, frustration and hope. You can find them via a Google search for “unemployment support” or “unemployment forums.”
  • Take a class at your local community college, and network with the professors and students. I have talked to several people who got their job through someone they met in a class they took for new job training. They got two for the price of one: a new skill to add to their resume and a contact that led to a job.

Previous: "The Shareable Job Search."

Regan McMahon


Regan McMahon

Regan McMahon is a writer, book critic and video producer in Oakland. She worked at the San Francisco Chronicle for many years, where she was a book critic, feature writer,