The following article is part of the AARP Connecticut 50+ Job-Seeker Series, featuring posts by AARP and local experts that are aimed at helping older workers take their job-hunting and career skills to the next level.
Have you ever noticed that successful people always seem to have robust personal and professional networks? They’ve figured out that the more meaningful connections you make with people, the more opportunities will present themselves. While experience and skills are important in landing a job, don’t underestimate the power of your network to help you identify promising job openings and even score that all important interview. In today’s competitive job market, networking is still one of the most effective ways to find your next job and should be the center of your job search.
In order to network effectively, it’s important to understand what “networking” is, and just as importantly, what it isn’t. For instance, it isn't handing your resume to people and asking them to find you a job. It isn't doing someone a favor and then letting them know they owe you one. It isn't introducing yourself to strangers and cornering them with a canned speech.
In its most basic sense, the act of networking is interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career. Your network is all the people you know – including family and friends, former colleagues, personal and professional acquaintances, anyone who knows you and with whom you’ve previously worked or exchanged contact information.
Networking is also physical. When you interact with someone, your posture, voice, facial expressions, and gestures need to support your message: that you're excited to be looking for a new opportunity. Our bodies hold the majority vote so don't get so hung up on the words that you forget how important your delivery is. Energy and enthusiasm are the gold standard and will attract people to you and motivate them to help you.
Below are some useful tips that will help in your networking:
1) Make a Company List -- My favorite networking tool is a list of companies where I might want to work. Once I have this, I can ask my network--and the people they know--if I can share that with them to see what they know about these companies. (It's really smart to ask "what" before you get to "who".)
2) Ask for Help -- Another tool I've found to be really effective is an email asking for advice. People love to give advice and it's flattering to be asked. So briefly tell your contact what you're looking for or your biggest challenge (I'm not sure if I should be focusing on large or small companies) and ask for advice. The trick here is to be relentless in your follow up.
3) Use Technology -- Social media is another important tool that has made networking even easier. Use social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to find out more about companies you are interested in, join groups or follow influencers that serve your target industries, and make connections that will expand your network and lead to future opportunities. READ: Why Tweets, Posts and Links Matter to Your Job Search
Often overlooked, networking also will make you feel better because you're engaged with other people making new connections, and learning new things. And don’t forget that it's a long-term investment. Smart professionals keep their network active and growing whether they're looking for work or not.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your network “work” for you!
About the Author
Jean Baur, The Back to Work! Coach is a career counselor, author and speaker with a passion for helping job seekers get back to work. Her two books offer in depth advice on how to overcome obstacles and get a job, and she's a frequent speaker at networking events and job search forums.
AARP Connecticut 50+ Job-Seeker Series and related articles:
AARP Connecticut Launches 50+ Job-Seeker Series
Age Proofing Your Resume in 2015
Put Your Best Face Forward When Job-Hunting
Dealing with the "Overqualified" Label
Creating Your Personal Brand