Monday, February 22, 2010

When It Comes to Networking, Mix It Up a Little

At a time when job cuts and layoffs are at record levels in some states, networking is becoming more important than ever. Whatever your reason for looking for a new job, in order for networking to be a truly valuable tool, you need to consider who the individuals and groups are that make up your network.

Think of your network as a series of concentric circles that emanate from the center when you drop a stone into a calm lake or river. Be sure to reach out to people in each of these circles to ensure you’re benefiting from the full networking experience.

The first circle represents those you know very well—your family and friends. Don’t be shy about letting them know that you’re considering a new career or looking for a new job. There’s no telling how many people your family and friends come into contact with each day, and any one of them could turn into an extremely valuable resource.

The next circle is composed of your former co-workers and bosses. This is especially true if you plan on staying in the same field. In some ways, this network can be even more valuable than family and friends, because the people in it can speak to your work ethic and your expertise, based on firsthand experience.

Next, if you’re unemployed, you’ll want to look for some networking events that others who are unemployed will be attending. Those who make up this network can be a valuable resource for sharing information on tools that have aided their job hunts, not to mention news about local career fairs, companies that are hiring, and more.

Of course, professional and trade associations can be extremely useful in your networking mix. As you’re considering opportunities for expanding into these areas, look locally as well as online. Dues and membership costs for these organizations can be somewhat steep, so make sure to vet out each organization and compare them to determine which one will give you the highest return for your money.

Lastly, for your network to be truly well rounded, you’ll want to include acquaintances from other facets of your life, for example, your hair stylist, a yoga instructor, or your mailperson to name a few. Think about how many people these individuals come into contact with daily. There’s no telling the extent to which they can help you put out the word. Of course, you’ll want to limit membership in this network to those you believe will have useful contacts and who can accurately convey the basics of your job situation and career intentions to others. Do not include those who are just interested in passing along gossip.

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