ed muses upon

2009/10/23

Staying Focused: Networking

Filed under: job search, staying focused — Tags: , , — edmusesupon @ 9:59 pm

The vast majority of positions (up to 80%, by some estimates) are filled through networking. Yet for many of us, the only times we pay meaningful, sustained attention to our networks is when we need something. Work, the day-to-day demands of being a homeowner or a parent, and a host of other issues can get in the way.

This is a problem for two reasons. First, nobody wants to hear from a friend only when they need something—I know that I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, and I bet I’m not alone. But second, when we find ourselves in job search, the lines of communication are often cold and it takes time to warm them up again.

No, to be good at networking, it has to be an ongoing process at all times: you get out of it what you put into it. When things are going well, you are positioned to sow the seeds you can later reap when things are not going so well.

Incidentally: I find it useful when meeting with people to have a business card. I may currently be unemployed but I do still have contact details I want to share with the people in a professional manner. I have had good results with VistaPrint, who charges only shipping—provided you let them print their logo on the back of your cards.

I attend a networking group which meets weekly, and a common question there is how to go about networking. Three good pointers I encountered include:

• Professional networking sites like LinkedIn, discussion forums or blogging sites.
• Networking groups, such as The Breakfast Club or Job Seekers or like found on Meetup.
• The classic: lunch with a friend of a friend. In the internet age, don’t forget the classics.

And in closing, a word about outplacement services: several years ago as part of my severance, an employer paid for 3 months of outplacement. These are services which help you find your next job. I found the discipline of getting out of my home was itself helpful in my search. It was also extremely valuable…as a networking opportunity.

At the end of the day: networking helps you to stay focused on the big picture: landing your next job.

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2009/10/05

PSG? You mean the utility company?

One issue that plagues most Professional Service Groups (PSGs) is the fact that their existence depends on a critical mass of people who are committed to the group and willing to do the work. When that critical mass is absent, PSGs fall into inactivity.

In this respect, the PSG of Mercer County is no different: its current incarnation came about through the hard work of several people, ultimately yielding that critical mass in September 2008. I first learned about PSG from a networking and support group that meets in Princeton called JobSeekers, the longest continuously-operating such group in the region. Several of those key people are members of JobSeekers and spoke of getting PSG up and running again. The idea was win/win: it would be a great way both to exercise my professional skills and to network with the people involved.

And that’s precisely what’s happened. People talk about tactics we can deploy in job search: networking, job boards, support groups, job search buddies, some people are still talking about newspapers…there’s a number of tactics, all with implementations that will work optimally for us. But PSG isn’t a tactic: it’s a strategy. When I write my monthly article for the newsletter, I keep my writing skills sharp. When I attend a presentation by the Training committee, I learn something new or participate in a workshop that helps me refine my interview skills or elevator speech. When I help lead the weekly LinkedIn Lab, I hone my presentation skills and sometimes even learn something myself. And without fail, in the weekly general membership meeting, I always encounter someone with whom I want to network: either because I can offer something useful to that person, or vice versa.

Working alongside other professionals to achieve a shared goal provides the sense of accomplishment that I’ve been missing since becoming unemployed.

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