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.
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.
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:
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.
If you aren't convinced that networking is the answer, the first step in networking successfully is to understand its benefits:
Your vast network is your "secret weapon" in your job search.
Networking works. Especially in hard times, you’ll find that a strong network is your safety net:
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:
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.
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!
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 and Google+.