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Networking 101 for Relaunchers

It’s common knowledge that most people get their jobs through someone they know.What’s less well-known is that most people get their jobs through someone they do not know very well.That’s because if someone within your inner circle had a job to offer you, they would have already done so.Unless your best friend or your brother-in-law can give you a job, you’ve got to get outside your circle of close friends and family to find out about potential opportunities.Here’s how to network effectively:

  1. Approach Networking as an Exchange.Most of us feel uncomfortable asking for favors, but if we can do something for someone in return we’re much less hesitant about making a request.Let that principle guide you in your networking.  Instead of thinking, “what can I get out of this person?”or “Who can he or she introduce me to?,”think about getting to know that person and finding out what you can do for him or her.Those who have been out of the workforce for years may wonder what they might possibly have to offer, but the fact is we all have something to offer, whether it’s recommendations regarding the best doctors or tutors, insight into the local schools or advice about the college admissions process.If you’re approaching someone in order to ask them for an introduction to someone else, take the time to find out how you might be able to help them.

  2. Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes.Many people wonder whether they should network at a kids’ sporting event or other school functions.Although different communities probably have different norms in this regard, I think it’s probably fine to network in these venues in a low-key way, simply by having conversations during which you might engage someone in a discussion about what they do for a living, but you don’t want to appear to be “working the room” or passing your card out like candy.Try to imagine how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of an ubernetworker and moderate yourself accordingly.

  3. Let others introduce you, if possible, especially in social situations.One of the best ways to network is to have someone else toot your horn for you.I picked up a client for my executive search business because my husband blabbed to someone he met at a wedding that his wife was an “ace headhunter.”  “Have her give me a call,” the man said.Within two weeks, I had a new client. One of the panelists at our Career Relaunch Forum in Chicago also claims she got her first job after being home for years courtesy of her husband.He met some UBS recruiters, and when he heard what they were looking for he said, “you really should talk to my wife.”That began another great career.

  4. Case the joint first, before plunging into conversations.Some people are so scared to stand alone at professional functions that they latch onto the first person they meet before getting a sense of who else they could encounter.To make the most of networking events, walk around and get a feel for the crowd before falling into a specific conversation.

  5. Be positive and upbeat in your interactions with people.No matter how bad a day you’ve had, or how worried you are about the job market or your prospects, put on a smile and display a positive attitude. You don’t have to be a glad-handing life-of-the-party, but you do have to project confidence and good cheer to draw people to you. 

  6. Don’t worry if you didn’t get someone’s card.  With Google or LinkedIn, you can usually track someone down if you know where they work.Or you may be able to ask the event organizer for someone's contact information.