Business Networking Pays Off
by Kimberly Paulk
Job Hunting Tips
Out of Work? Volunteer!
Now is the best time to network for your next job. If your position at work has been downsized, keep reading. If you are among those still working, waiting for the other shoe to drop as co-workers are called into closed-door meetings while someone loads their personal belongings into a box, even better. The ideal time to network is before you need to rely on the people you know and connections you've nurtured to find another job. But the best time to start, no matter what stage you are at in your work life, is now.
There is often no cost involved, other than your time, when establishing a far-reaching, successful professional network. Here are a few tried and true zero-cost methods for making real connections that can pay dividends in the form of opportunities now or down the road.
Go Through the Attic
Don't overlook your holiday card list and address book. Directories from church, school or social organizations can be mined for names and contact information. Once you have the names and numbers, make a phone call or send a note to friends and acquaintances that you may have lost touch with in recent months or years.
Ideally, you are still working and in the position to simply re-establish your relationship with them. But if you are looking for work, say so honestly and up front. Develop a brief explanation of what has happened in your life. Give your story ("My firm decided to refocus on commercial business and eliminated several retail divisions last month, including my own."). Follow that up with a brief request that they keep you in mind ("I'm exploring my options right now, so if you hear of any opportunities, I'd appreciate you letting me know."). Continue by expressing a sincere interest in them ("How are the kids?"), and your request and intentions will be generally understood and appreciated.
Look for volunteer opportunities that you believe in and that will at the same time put you in touch with people with career interests similar to your own. Corporations get involved with many charities, such as Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, and the list goes on. Get involved, make a sincere effort to be a part of their program and develop connections at the same time.
There is no shortage of online opportunities for business or social networking. The key is limiting yourself to sites that are truly beneficial to your particular search. Otherwise, maintaining your presence online can become a time consuming job in itself, minus the paycheck.
Each of these services is free (upgraded features are available for a fee). Each site has a slightly different mission. Biznik.com bills itself as a business networking community for anyone growing a business. Ryze.com markets itself as both a business networking opportunity and for keeping in touch with friends. The largest business network out there is LinkedIn.com. Billed as a way to both reconnect with colleagues and "power your career," LinkedIn makes no apologies about providing opportunities for its members to job search. There are more than 30 million professionals in the network; chances are that someone you know is out there already.
Do It Right
Remember that a successful network is built on reciprocity and respect. If your contacts only hear from you when you need something, they won't be picking up the phone for your calls much longer. Be sincere and honest in your networking mission and the results will follow.
Kimberly Paulk is a freelance writer in Charlotte, N.C. She is a member of the National Résumé Writers' Association and specializes in writing for and about small businesses.
Take the Next Step:
- If not already doing so, begin to practice a few of these tried and true zero-cost methods for making real connections that can pay dividends in the form of opportunities now or down the road.
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