Network Your Way into a Job When You’re Reentering the Workforce
Anyone who’s tried the traditional methods of job searching, like posting the resume online and responding to job posting on job boards, company websites, and other outlets knows that the response rate is often minimal. And when that call does come in, there’s a good chance it’s from a random headhunter who sounds clueless about what you’re looking for. Sure, there are some people who have gone this route and succeeded, but for most, that’s not the case. Well, enough of that – it’s time to get better results out of your job search effort with networking! Networking is especially critical for those reentering the workforce.
When you’ve been away from the workforce for some time, there are greater challenges faced than the typical job seeker. Several factors that may put you behind the competition include the career gap on the resume and lack of current experience and skills. In the eyes of the employer, you may not be the most appealing candidate for the job. However, bring in the help of your professional network of contacts and your chances of success greatly improve.
Having the right contacts can help your job search in several ways: 1) Resumes that come in with a referral generally takes priority over the random job candidate submitting their resume; 2) If you have someone who knows the contact, they may be able to help with an introduction or they can direct you to someone who can help with that; and 3) A strong network helps you build a professional brand image; as someone with valuable connections in the industry.
So, here how to get started:
Build your professional network
Luckily for everyone today, professional networking is easier than ever. If you’re already on LinkedIn, you’re at a good start. Just from this one outlet, you can build on the relationships with people you already know, people they know, and people you want to know. Just start with the relevant people who you believe can (and want to help). It may be people you met in school and/or from your previous work experience. For additional networking opportunities, read: “Networking Groups Are a Must When Job Searching.”
Start conversing with others
If you’ve remained in contact with people, it’s as easy as telling them you’re looking to return to work doing “fill in the blank” and you wanted to see if they may know of any opportunities, or even better – know of people who they can help put you in touch with. And for those you haven’t been in contact with, you want to ease in to conversation by asking them what they’ve been up to and then mutually informing them of your situation and the desire to return to work.
There may also be instances where you want to reach out to people you don’t know, but who you believe can help you. First, see if you have a referral – someone you know whom may help with the introduction. And if you don’t have any direct or in-direct connections, do some research to talk your way in. It can be as simple as “I enjoyed reading your post on XYZ and was wondering if you can help with offering some advice on….” An important point here is to customize and tailor your message. Don’t just send the default invitation to connect where you offer no background or reason to connect. It’s not how you want to start conversing.
Find additional tips to connecting with people and getting the conversation started, reading: “What to Say to People When Connecting on LinkedIn.”
Establish and maintain meaningful relationships
To have strong professional network means you’re building relationships – existing ones and new ones. It should be a relationship that’s mutually beneficial. You ask for advice and may, in return, offer advice. There’s a friendly, ongoing dialogue. That doesn’t mean you need to speak with each other every week, but evening sharing information and commenting on their posts or activities shows you remain engaged with them.
Networking has one of the greatest effectiveness rates out of all job search tactics. As a professional returning to the workforce, you need all the help you can get to reinforce the message to employers that you have something of value to offer – even when you’ve been away from the workforce.