Networking is an important skill for job search, maybe even the most important. Studies of successful job seekers consistently find that 70% – 90% of candidates (depending on the industry) found their new positions through networking.
Regrettably, many Baby Boomers are uncomfortable networking, and avoid this powerful tool. This is really unfortunate because Boomers have a significant edge over others in job search networking.
Over 50? You Have Valuable Networks of Friends, Colleagues, and Former Co-Workers
Whether or not you realize it, when you are over 50, you have developed an enormous collection of personal and professional relationships over time.
Since it takes time to develop people’s respect and trust, you have both of these factors going for you.
Because of your network’s familiarity with you and with your work, most people in your network will be happy to introduce you to their connections.
These are referrals with clout.
A referral from someone who met you once at an industry event won’t have the same weight as a referral from a friend or co-worker who can talk about you with conviction, based on a relationship of many years. This gives you a considerable advantage in expanding your circle to learn about potential opportunities as they arise.
Do you Resist Networking?
If you do, you may have negative assumptions about networking that you need to address before you can learn to network with ease. Here are some of the more common ones I’ve encountered in my work with people in mid-life:
- “Networking means asking for help, which means I’d be admitting failure in some way.”
- “Networking is selling myself. The mere thought paralyzes me.”
- “It’s embarrassing to be out of a job, so I don’t want to talk about it with other people.”
- “Why would anyone want to talk with me? People are busy. I don’t want to impose. I’m not sure what to say or what to do.”
- “Networking is just another word for using people. That’s not nice, and I don’t do it.”
If you view networking as asking for favors, imposing on people, or being “one-down,” how motivated will you be to network? You know the answer.
Benefits of Networking When You Are Over 550
If you aren’t convinced that networking is the answer, the first step in networking successfully is to understand its benefits:
- To help you feel connected rather than alone. You will realize you are already a member of a community of people who will be interested in sharing ideas, resources, leads, and offering tangible support.
- To encourage a shift in perspective; and focus you on the strengths, wisdom, knowledge, and experience you have to share.
- Networking will be a way to find new like-minded people, exciting things to learn about, and accelerate the effectiveness of your job search.
- Give you the opportunity to practice presenting yourself and your qualifications effectively; a great skill to have, and one that will help you shine in job interviews.
- Allow you to feel stronger and more self-confident by serving as a valued resource to others who you may be able to assist.
- Networking is the single, best way to learn about jobs in the “hidden job market,” the majority of jobs that are never advertised.
Your vast network is your “secret weapon” in your job search.
The Principles of Networking
Networking works. Especially in hard times, you’ll find that a strong network is your safety net:
- No person is an island; even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Networking is based on a simple principle: We need each other to accomplish the challenging things in life.
- Networking is people helping other people. Networking is developing mutually beneficial relationships to use for information, advice and support.
- Networking is giving before getting. When you begin by sharing resources and helping others, you’ll find that the members of your network will naturally help you achieve your goals as well.
Whether you are networking in person or online, at one-on-one planned “informational interviews,” at chance meetings or industry events, keep your focus in three areas:
- Genuinely connect with and learn about the other person,
- Share information, ideas, resources, and encouragement with him or her,
- When it’s appropriate, ask for leads and/or gather referrals to other potentially useful contacts.
Realize that while it’s not likely that your contacts will know of a job for you at the moment you meet, if you cultivate the relationship respectfully, they can act as another pair of eyes and ears, updating you on positions they hear about.
One way to build your networking confidence is to get networking tips and brush-up on networking etiquette by reading some of the great articles about networking here with Job-Hunt’s Guide to Job Search Networking.
Over 50 Networking Beats Unemployment in MANY Ways
One of the most difficult aspects of being out of work can be isolation, and networking is an excellent antidote.
As you focus on connecting with your network, you’ll feel less alone. When you reach out to share what you know and help other people with information and support, you’ll feel a stronger sense of purpose. It won’t be long before you’ll have a whole circle of people you are contributing to, and being supported by.
The effectiveness of your job search will multiply. With hundreds of eyes and ears looking and listening for jobs for you, you’ll learn of opportunities you would never have found on your own.
[Check out Job-Hunt’s Guide to Overcoming Unemployment for more articles specifically for people who have been unemployed for a long time.]
Now read Part 2 of this article, the biggest Over 50 / Boomer Advantage – building your network by reconnecting with people from your past!
About the author…
Phyllis Mufson is a career / business consultant and a certified life coach with over 25 years of experience. She has helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate career transitions. You can learn more about Phyllis and her practice at PhyllisMufson and follow Phyllis on Twitter @PhyllisMufson.
More about this author…