In my last post, I discussed the differences in networking between men and women, and strategies women (and men) can employ to network better. Finding the article insightful, a reader asked me to write a follow-up on networking strategies for those out of work looking to get back into the job market. For the most part, the core strategies remain the same. The difference is in how you use those strategies.
When seeking employment, your approach to connecting with new people and reconnecting with former colleagues and associates, has to be targeted. Because you are networking for career advancement, the strategic approach to networking will be your best bet. The social approach will help with coping with job loss or the stress of looking for work, but use your time wisely. Your energy should be put into connecting with those who can give you leads, or help you get a job, e.g. former colleagues or connections in the field you want to enter, advisors (these include mentors and former sponsors), and friends (only those who are employed).
Below are a few tips you may find beneficial as you embark on your networking journey.
1. Take advantage of EVERY opportunity that can connect you with the right people. In order to do this, you have to see an opportunity for what it is. YOU MUST PAY ATTENTION!!!
Let me tell you a story…
Not too long ago I was collecting data for my dissertation research. My research focused on identifying the self-limiting factors that prevent leadership emergence of women of color. Part of the data collection required soliciting participants for a survey. In trying to determine how to reach the greatest amount to people, I went to my professional network (LinkedIn) to ask my female colleagues for their help. I sent out a communication asking for 10 minutes of their time to participate in something that would not only help me, but in the long term, may prove to be beneficial to them as well. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Most responded by saying “Wow this is great, I would love to participate”, “I will definitely take the survey", "I can’t wait to see the results”. Then I received this response… “I don’t have time to take a survey, I need to find a job”. I will admit, for a brief moment, my feelings were hurt. But then I thought to myself… “Well if she needs a job, it might be beneficial to her if she helps me, since I'm in a position to help her. I work in Human Resources. I can probably help her find a job, or at least connect her with HR colleagues in my network.”
I imagine that had she taken the survey (seen the opportunity to connect with someone who could help her), we could have developed a stronger relationship, and I could have either helped her with her job search, or connected her with people who could.
Sometimes it is difficult to see opportunities for what they are. You can get caught up in the emotions and stress of being unemployed, that if an opportunity is not an actual job, you might not be open to it.
2. When an opportunity comes to pass... Show up!
When you enlist the help of people in your network, you are not only asking for a lead, you are asking for an endorsement. You are asking others to put their reputation on the line for you. The moment they say, my colleague, my mentee, my friend, is looking for a job, they are associating you with them.
I personally don’t believe in taking a job that you cannot see as a pathway to a career. When you do not see longevity in a job or role that you have, you will not give it 100%. Giving that 100% is what gets you noticed (most of the time), and can lead to career growth. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for income, but don’t go into food service if you know eventually you want to get back into financial management. Look for a “gateway” job, like an office assistant, bookkeeper, or accounting clerk.
Be upfront about what you are looking for. You don’t want a job that you will end up quitting because it’s not what you want to do. It makes you look bad, and it makes your connection look bad. Remember, your network is helping you so return the favor, show up, and do your best. If those in your network truly mean to help you, they will not steer you in the wrong direction.
3. Be prepared to make an investment so that you can get a return.
Just because you are unemployed doesn’t mean you stop engaging in professional activities, stop your membership to professional networks, or stop participating in communities of practice (CoP’s). Remember, these groups are where the people you need to network with will be.
Yes, there will be a cost associated with these activities, one that you might think you can’t afford, but you are investing in your future. The return could be connecting with someone who can help you find a job or kick-start your career. Investing in yourself and your own development shows that you are serious about taking the necessary steps to get back into the workforce. Others will see this and be more willing to help you get there. If you give the impression that you are hopeless, you will be treated as such, and you could potentially lose connections.
Remember, engaging in the five key behaviors of successful networking will prove to be the best thing you can do to get back in the game. Continue (1) engaging in professional activities. Join (2) communities of practice. Attending networking events will (3) increase your visibility. Get out there and (4) socialize. (5) Maintain contacts… they will come in handy!