Simply put, “networking” means “making connections with people.” It’s probably the most important thing you can do to achieve professional success. Your network includes business acquaintances and personal and community contacts.
See also: Ask effective interview questions.
Why network? According to BH Careers International, 80 percent of all available jobs are not formally posted. Landing a position is more easily accomplished through word of mouth.
You should always be networking, no matter what your current job status. You never know when you will need to call on your contacts or when they may have a lead on an exciting new opportunity.
- Prepare an "elevator speech," a 30-second summary of who you are and what you'd like to do professionally.
- Always have business cards with you and an updated résumé you can send upon request.
- Think of every place you go as an opportunity to meet people. That way, you can expand your network seamlessly.
Building Your List
- Write down the names of current and former colleagues, acquaintances from professional organizations, and the business associates of family and friends. Many companies count on employee referrals as a major source of new hires.
- Cultivate your personal network—neighbors, relatives, organizations, religious or community groups, book clubs, or fellow volunteers. Look to all generations for networking opportunities.
- Build rapport by contacting people when you don't need anything.
- Stay in touch every few months, and your conversations can be purely social.
- Ask for advice, not a job. Draw out stories about your contacts’ professional experiences.
- After you've met someone knowledgeable and interesting, send a quick e-mail or a handwritten note saying how much you enjoyed meeting the person. If you want to learn more from him or her, propose lunch or coffee and say when you’ll follow up.
- When someone helps you, say, “Thank you!”
- Join the Online Community on AARP.org. Sign up with a group and chat with other 50+ workers at The Water Cooler—Your Place for Job Talk at 50+.
- Find tips on how 50+ workers can network at Job-Hunt.org.The Riley Guide lists networking and support groups by geographical area.
- Join social networking sites, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, Secrets of the Job Hunt, Ryze Business Network, 40-Plus, Five O’Clock Club and Women for Hire.
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