How To Ask For Help With Your Job Search
Ever feel weird about asking someone for help with your job search? I encourage you to think differently about asking for help.
Maybe one of these things has happened to you:
- You are applying to a job at a company and you know someone who works there, but you feel a little funny asking them for a referral or for information that might help you out
- You are interested in a career field or a job and your neighbor works in that field, but you are hesitant to ask them about their work
- You know someone (not a BFF, but an acquaintance) who works at a company you would love to work for, but you just don’t feel right asking them for tips on getting a job there
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know if that path might work out for you!
I encourage you to make the ask for help
Let’s reframe this situation so you can see it with a different perspective.
Currently you are thinking of this situation in terms of asking for a favor that might burden someone else: You’re thinking about how they will have to take time out of their day to speak with you or fill out a referral form at work for you.
But that’s the wrong way to see it!
A good reframe of this situation could be that you are giving someone an opportunity to be a hero at work by introducing you – a great candidate for a job!
Trust me when I tell you that every team with an opening is looking for a smart, reliable, collaborative person to join their ranks. So give your contact at that company the opportunity to be the hero that introduces a terrific candidate to the team. It’s a win-win!
Referral Bonuses Are For Real
An even bigger win is a company that pays it’s employees referral bonuses: Your contact could get paid a nice little sum when you get hired! Companies love to hire people that come recommended to them by someone they already know and trust.
So don’t hesitate to make that ask for a referral: You might be doing someone a BIG favor that they can take all the way to the bank!
Here’s Another Reframe
You’re hesitant to ask someone to have coffee with you and tell you about their job or their company. You’re thinking about how busy they must be and how they probably don’t want to spend their free time talking about work.
Again, this is the wrong way to see it.
The reframe: People love to talk about themselves! And even more than that, it is flattering when someone approaches you because of your expertise in your field and asks to hear about your experience.
I am encouraging you to make the ask because you will learn a ton from that expert, and you are giving them the opportunity to shine and feel great about what they do.
Make the ask! Check out the Back to Business Guide To Conducting Informational Interviews for more detail on this.
It Feels Good To Help
I firmly believe that people want to help you, but you have to tell them how they can be helpful.
So the next time you catch yourself hesitating to ask for help with your job search, I want you to reframe that situation and see it from the perspective of you giving them the opportunity to be helpful.
One Final Caveat
If you are reaching out on LinkedIn to ask people to chat with you about their job or to ask for a referral, you will not get a 100% response rate.
Don’t let those non-responders slow you down or convince you that asking for help isn’t the right path. Stay the course and find someone else to reach out to for help with your job search.
Finding The Right Job Fit As You Restart Your Career
Finding the right fit for you job is critical, especially if you are a career re-starter. In fact, we all know how important it is to find the right fit – with your friends, your job, even your clothes, and definitely your shoes!
When the fit isn’t right, it causes friction. If you’ve ever been in a job that turned out to be the wrong fit, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You Will Find Where You Fit
Recently I had a job interview that I was excited about. When it was over, I picked up my phone and saw a message from the Calm app (I really ❤️ the Calm app!) that said “You will find where you fit.”
So while I definitely cannot take credit for this little nugget of wisdom, I am sharing it with you as a reminder of how important it is to find the job and the company that feels right to you.
Let’s stop trying to fit ourselves into someone else’s mold and start being ourselves all the time. Let’s interview and be our best selves, and also be honest about the environment in which we will do our best work. This is how we land in a situation where we can thrive, do great work, and be appreciated for our unique gifts.
If it’s not the right fit, we’re not going to live up to our full potential.
As I go through my own job search, “you will find where you fit” has become a sort of mantra for me. It’s reminding me that not every job and company are right for me. But it also reminds me that the right fit is out there, and I know I can find it.
How To Find The Right Job Fit
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of finding the right job fit for you.
Know What You Need
If you’re going to find the right job fit, you must be able to articulate what makes a good fit for you. This is going to be different for everyone, so spend the time to ask yourself a few questions that will nail down what you want and need in a job. Journal your answers to these prompts so you can refer back to it throughout your job search.
Here are a few thought questions to get you started on finding the right job fit:
- What is the work environment in which I can do my best work?
- Do I want to be in an office full-time? A few days a week? Or do I need a work from home arrangement?
- What is my ideal manager like? How could they work with me to bring out my best?
- How would I prefer to interact with my teammates?
- Am I most productive when I can work solo or do I thrive in a collaborative environment?
- Do I enjoy a competitive work environment?
- Am I willing to take risks at work such as taking on a big project, trying something new, or speaking up to propose a new process?
Look For The Clues That The Job Is The Right Fit
Once you are clear on the environment you need to thrive, you can look for clues that indicate a job is a good fit for you in job descriptions and on company Careers pages.
If you know you want a collaborative environment and the job description talks about competing for sales awards or recognition, you may want to move on. Likewise, if you are risk-averse in a work setting and the company places a high value on innovation and pushing the envelope with new ways of doing things, this is going to be a mismatch for you.
Use Available Resources
Check websites like Glassdoor.com for company reviews to get a feel for a company’s culture. Take these with a grain of salt, but also know that a large amount of reviews saying the same thing is a signal that there might be some truth there.
Tap into your own network by telling friends what type of job and environment you are looking for. People you are friendly with might share your same values and give you an inside scoop on a great workplace they know of. Finding the right job fit gets easier when you can talk to people about their work environment to discover what it’s really like to work there. Check out our Networking 101 if you need tips on this.
Ask the Questions To Find The Right Job Fit
When you are interviewing for jobs, have a list of questions that will help you determine if the culture and workplace expectations will be the right fit for you.
Adapt these questions to ask about your best-fit environment:
- How is failure handled here? Are people rewarded for trying new things, even if they don’t always succeed?
- What is the expectation for working in-office versus remote?
- What is the hiring manager’s management style?
- Has her team experienced much turnover during the last year?
- How does this team work together? How do they work with other teams in the organization? Can you give me an example of a recent team collaboration?
You know what a good fit feels like, so pay attention to the signals you are getting in the interview. Does the manager seem like someone you could productively work for? Are people happy to work at this company? Does the mission resonate with you?
Every decision we make involves some kind of a trade-off. Be conscious of the trade-off you are making when you evaluate a job opportunity and check in with your gut to make sure it’s right for you.
I hope you find where you fit and love it there!
If you need more tips on returning to work after a career break, check out our Job Search Greatest Hits.
Ultimate Guide To Returning To Work After A Career Break
Let’s Get Back To Work
Returning to work after a career break can be a really exciting new chapter in your life. It can also mean that you are entering into a job search that might be challening. If you’re looking for that first job after being out of the workforce for a period of time, you are not a typical job-seeker. Therefore, you should not be conducting a typical job search process that relies mostly on applying to jobs.
As an outside-the-box hire, you’ll need to focus primarily on connecting with people where you’ll have the chance to explain your unique value proposition. Your resume may not tell your whole story, so you’ll need to get out from behind your computer and make personal connections.
This is an exciting transition in your future. It may seem like a daunting task, both the personal aspects of shifting from being a stay-at-home mom and the fact that your family will also have to adjust to the new order at home. Read on, but also be sure to check out my blog on how to get your job search started.
Let’s walk through the process of restarting your career together.
Find Your Focus As You Return To Work After A Career Break
You’ll want to invest some time before you dive into a job search to find your focus. For some of you with highly specialized skills and a shorter career break, this step might be easy. If your career break has been longer than a few years, you don’t want to return to your previous field, or you simply aren’t sure yet, this is important. It will be critical to take an inventory of your skillset, your interests, and your motivation for returning to work to help you determine your focus.
Start by listing your most job-relevant skills
Don’t limit yourself to skills you have been paid for using. If you’re the volunteer who has raised tons of money for organizations, then fund-raising is a skill you possess, even if you weren’t being paid to do that.
List soft skills such as leadership, people management, communication and collaboration. Don’t overlook the importance of soft skills in the hiring process, but do be sure you have an example that proves you possess each skill you are listing.
Include your hard skills such as any technical or job-specific skills you have. Don’t edit yourself during this stage, just get all of your skills into a list without worrying about your competency level just yet.
What Interests You?
Next, come up a list of your interests. What do you enjoy doing? Are there things you can completely lose track of time while you’re doing because you enjoy them so much? Consider previous jobs you’ve held – what were the parts of those jobs that really lit you up?
What Motivates You?
Think about why you are returning to work after your career break and get that down on paper. Do you need to earn income to support yourself or your family? Are you excited by the idea of contributing to a company with a mission you believe in? Do you yearn to put your education and experience to work again and miss the feeling of accomplishment that comes from full-time work? We’ll want to capture your motivation because this might help you decide between jobs down the line.
Every transition or new job involves making trade-offs and you’ll be in a better position to determine if the trade-offs you’re making are ones you can live with if you’re clear on your motivation. For example, if you’re returning to work after a career break for financial reasons, it might make sense for you to pursue higher-paying jobs even if that means you are working longer hours than you’d ideally like.
Add It All Up
Take a good look at your lists of interests, skills, and motivations. What does it tell you? The magic in finding your focus lies in determining where there’s an intersection of your skills and interests with a need in the job market. Start reading your local business press or industry publications/blogs for jobs you are considering. You’ll want to understand where the need in the market is greatest.
Make A List Of Your Career Break Activities
This can help give you some clues about what you really enjoy doing. It may also provide insight into the skills you’ve developed or sharpened since leaving the paid workforce. I’ve got a whole blog on developing your list of career break activities here.
Focus Doesn’t Mean Just 1
While having direction for your job search is important, at this stage I will encourage you to have multiple paths in mind. Having more than one idea about where you can effectively plug back into the workforce can help you stay flexible. If you’ve determined that your skillset could be applied in a few different contexts in the workforce, then map out these parallel paths for yourself rather than discarding one. Keep in mind, 5 parallel paths may be too many, but 3 could be just the right number.
Prototype Your Job
This next step is fun! Once you’ve found a direction (or two or three), come up with some ways you can prototype this new career for yourself. You’ll want to learn all about it and even try it on if you can. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Find people doing that job or working in your field and talk to them about it
- Check YouTube for videos that give you the inside scoop on the job by searching “a day in the life of a (insert profession here)”
- Read job descriptions for your ideal job to understand the expectations and the requirements
- Search for the job titles you’re considering on LinkedIn and read through the career paths of people who are doing that job now to notice how they got there and what their key skills are; connect with them and ask them if they’d speak with you so you could learn more
- Find LinkedIn groups, MeetUps or professional associations for people in the job you’re considering and join them – sometimes these groups have mentoring opportunities
Prepare Your Family For Your Return To Work
Let’s take a time-out from your job search activities here to think through preparing your family for the changes that will occur when you return to work. It’s never too early to give your crew a heads-up that things are going to be changing around here!
Start shifting responsibility for some of the tasks that you’ve taken on to others in your household. Nobody can do it all, and trying to is a recipe for burnout. If you’ve got kids still at home, remember that they will benefit from the responsibility of being contributing members of the household. Chores are beneficial for kids.
Preparing early for your transition back to work gives you time to conduct that Saturday morning session on how to use the washing machine or how to empty the dishwasher. Be sure to enlist the support of your spouse as well – marriage is a partnership and yours can withstand the redistribution of responsibilities that comes with a spouse returning to work after a career break.
Make a Target Company List
You probably thought the next step was going to be applying to jobs. But I’d rather orient your job search around specific companies where you’d like to work and the people who work there, rather than just let you loose to flood the internet with blind job applications that you’ll never get a response from.
Brainstorm a list of companies that you’re interested in. Then build on your list by searching LinkedIn for them and noticing which companies pop up in the right sidebar labeled “People Also Viewed”. These are companies that are similar to the company you searched on and you may not have heard of them – wonderful! You are broadening your horizons! For additional ideas, be sure to check those famous lists such as Fortune’s Best Places to Work list.
Find People To Talk To As You Return To Work After a Career Break
Now that you’ve got a list of companies you’re interested in, the next step is to research them and find people who work there. Tap your own network and ask people if they know anyone at your target companies they can introduce you to. Getting a warm introduction to someone is much better than doing cold outreach, so lean heavily on your network in this stage. Remember, you are in information-gathering mode, so you’re hoping to speak with people who can share their experience with the company and provide insight into where they might be hiring.
If you’re coming up empty, go back to LinkedIn and search on the company using the People filter. Find people who work in the department you’re interested in joining. Or find people in Talent Acquisition and send them a connection request with a very brief personalized note noting your interest in the company and asking if they’d be willing to spend 15 minutes speaking with you about their experience. Then follow this guide to conducting informational interviews to get the most out of your meeting.
This step is tricky, because to be completely honest, you are not going to get a lot of people who are willing to chat with a total stranger. Don’t take silence or rejection personally, just keep plowing ahead. These conversations and connections can be so valuable for a job-seeker that it’s worth making the ask even if only a very small percentage of your requests receive favorable responses.
OK, Now Apply!
You’ve gotten clear on your direction(s) for your job search, put together a company list and talked to people in your field. I know you have learned a lot and made some good connections, and now it’s time to apply to jobs.
Set up job alerts in LinkedIn and Indeed and make sure your profile is built out completely on both of these sites. Let’s make it as easy as possible for recruiters to find you! Be sure you’ve set up alerts for multiple variations of the job title you’re interested in to increase your chances of getting sent the right jobs.
Write a cover letter that speaks to your interest in the job and is personal. Nobody likes getting a form letter, so use your research to make sure your cover letter is targeted for the job at hand. Customize your resume also – it should mirror the language of the job description you are applying to in order to increase your chances of being noticed. Pro tip: ChatGPT writes a good cover letter in just a few seconds!
Get That Referral
If you’ve got a contact at the company you are applying to, reach out to them before you apply to let them know you’re applying. In the event that the company has a referral system, your contact might be able to give you a special link to use when applying to the job. If you’ve already applied, however, a referral link is unlikely to be valid. Lots of companies pay their employees a bonus for referring candidates who get hired, so if you’re asking for a referral you might be doing both of you a favor!
Now Find An Insider
For those job you applied to through a referral link, you can skip this step. But let’s say you’ve applied to a job and you don’t know anyone at the company but you’d really like to get your application noticed. Head back over to LinkedIn, find someone who works there in the department you’re applying to and send them a connection request with a message. Your message should say: “I am applying to the Project Manager role in your department and I’m really excited about it because (tell them why you’re going to be able to make a big impact there). I hope to have the opportunity to speak with your team about my interest in this role.”
Note that you’re not asking for anything, just hoping that your expression of interest will help shine a light on your application. This is a step most job-seekers don’t take, which means it’s a real opportunity for you to stand out among the pool of candidates.
Now Do It Again
One of the most frustrating things about applying for jobs is that you simply won’t get any response to many of the applications you put out. Recruiting is a broken system in many organizations, which I think is completely avoidable given our ability to automate tasks. Still, the take-away is that you can’t just apply and then wait around, because you might be waiting forever.
After you apply and you send your follow-ups via LinkedIn, find more people, more companies and more jobs and repeat the process. I’m not a big fan of applying to a million jobs and thinking that it’s just a numbers game. But the truth is that you have to put yourself out there many times in order to be successful with a job search. This is hard, but it’s going to be worth it when you land that job. And everything worth doing is hard. I know you’re up to the task, though.
Nothing Is Wasted
In job search, nothing is wasted because everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. Not hearing anything back from your applications? Revisit your resume and the types of jobs you’re applying to and give them a critical look to see what you need to adjust. Having lots of interviews but no offers? Get some coaching on your interview skills and prepare your answers to commonly asked interview questions.
Winging it during interviews is not a set up for success. Ask yourself what you can learn from every step in the job search process, and be flexible enough to pivot when the market is telling you that you need to make adjustments.
Own Your Break
As a non-traditional job-seeker, your difference is your strength. Don’t be afraid to own your career break and talk about what you learned during that time out of the paid workforce that will make you a better employee. Proactively position your career break as a positive thing and control the conversation around it – if you don’t respect your career break, potential employers won’t either. For tips on how to talk about your career break, download my Own Your Career Break Talking Points here.
You Can Return to Work After a Career Break
You aren’t alone as a woman restarting her career. Find a friend who is also returning to work and commit to meeting for coffee once a week to encourage and support each other. Support like that will really keep you going when things get tough and the job search starts to feel long. Just remember that you can totally do this – and I am here rooting for you every step of the way!
Look Behind You
Once you get that job, don’t forget to look behind you and notice the other women who are trying to make this same transition back to work. We need to help each other out and advocate for each other.
Until taking a career break is regarded as a normal part of a long and successful career, we’re going to have to encourage our employers to consider candidates who have non-traditional resumes. Let’s do this together!
Returnship Programs: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know
Brought to you by Back to Business
Returnship programs are a great way for individuals who have been out of the workforce for a period of time to return to work. Returnship programs are internship-like programs that typically hire a cohort of people to work for a defined period of time, and provide mentoring and training. Ideally, companies offer the Returners a full-time job upon completion of the program. There’s a lot to know about Returnship programs so I’m going to really dig into the details here.
Returnship programs were first developed in the early 2000’s by a few forward-thinking Human Resource professionals who realized that having a gap in your work history made it difficult for people to get a job. They started in investment banks, and Goldman Sachs is credited with pioneering the first returnship program in 2008.
Returnship Programs Usually Require a 2-Year Career Gap
Returnships are an efficient and effective path back into the workforce for professionals who have some professional work experience, even if your work experience isn’t recent.
Recruiting for a position that actually requires a minimum of a 2-year career gap can be a very refreshing experience for people who are job-seeking after a career break. You do not have to worry about explaining that gap in your work history to employers!
Requirements vary by company, but the minimum 2-year career break is quite common among Returnship programs. Many programs specifically state that you qualify if you have been unemployed or under-employed for at least the past 2 years. Under-employed might mean that you took a job during the last 2 years that is not in your career field. It can also mean that you are working part-time instead of full-time. Sometimes that part-time job is necessary because you need to make ends meet or thought it might be a stepping-stone to get you back into an appropriately-leveled job in your intended career field. That will not disqualify you from most Returnships.
Returnship Programs Aren’t Just for Moms
Women who left their careers to raise children were the original targets of Returnship programs. However, these programs are also a good solution for anyone who has taken an extended leave to care for a sick relative or stepped out of the workforce due to their own health issue. Veterans transitioning out of the military are often targets of Returnship recruiting. Also, stay-at-home Dads are welcome to apply for Returnships!
Join the Group – Returnships are Often Cohorts
Returnship programs are often planned to include a group, or cohort, of people hired at the same time. The group is onboarded together through a new-hire orientation and continues to meet periodically for training opportunities throughout the Returnship. The group aspect of these programs is thought to be a major contributor to the success of individuals participating in Returnships.
Imagine making a big life transition such as returning to work after a career break and having a built-in support system of people making that same transition! Returnships can provide that kind of support with the cohort model.
You’d immediately be connected to others who understand exactly what you’re going through and who are likely experiencing the same pressures and stresses of balancing family and work and, well, life. Cohorts can range in size from just 2 all the way up to 16 at a larger firm with a well-established Returnship program.
Training Included In Returnship Programs
Returnship programs will vary by company, but many have skills training opportunities built into the program. These can either be at the beginning of the program, occur periodically throughout the program, or (ideally) occur at both of those times. Companies running returnship programs are investing in you and are providing training opportunities so you can refresh your skills and succeed on the job.
Soak it up – if you’re lucky enough to land a job at a company that spends time and money ensuring their employees skills are sharp, you are in a good place!
Many Returnships were created to fill technical positions, such as Software Engineer. We’re all familiar with the lopsided make-up of the technical workforce and how it skews heavily male. Returnships can be a great way to incent women with technical skills to return to the workforce. The upskilling these programs provide can solve the tricky problem that many women face when they take a few years off of a technical career and are left with outdated technical skills. It’s a win-win when a company hires engineers that will diversify their engineering teams and career restarters receive the technical training they need to return to the workforce.
All Kinds of Jobs Can Be Returnship Programs
Returnships aren’t just for technical positions. In fact, the Returnship model works well for jobs across a whole range of functions. Credit Suisse’s Real Returns Returnship Program sources candidates for roles across their business units in many different functions. In this case, they identify positions that need to be filled on different teams and earmark those roles for the Returnship. Then they get filled with candidates who meet the Returnship criteria and who will participate in the Returnship programming.
I’ve seen Returnship programs in HR, finance, marketing, and many other functional areas.
Sourcing General Returnship Candidates
In rare cases, I am aware of companies that want to run a Returnship program and put out a very general call for candidates that meet certain criteria. The corporate recruiter who evaluates those candidates is looking for (a) a good fit with the organization and (b) someone with the potential to thrive in a role that can be molded to suit their skill set. The only company that I know of that filled their Returnship opening this way was able to do so because they had just one opening. It would be very difficult to fill multiple roles this way! It’s also difficult to apply because you don’t know what they are looking for.
The pandemic forced many jobs to transition quickly to remote work or work from home (WFH). Even now there’s a lot of uncertainty around companies’ policies about working in-office or working remotely. As they hire new employees, many companies are having them WFH either temporarily or on a permanent basis. Personally, I think we’ll see quite a bit of flexibility surrounding work arrangements in the future, with many employers offering their people a hybrid model that includes the option to WFH a few days a week and work in the office a few days.
Some companies are sourcing candidates for their Returnships that live in a specific area or are willing to relocate there at some point in the future when and if they decide to enforce a return to the office policy.
If you are interested in a companies’ Returnship program, be sure to find out if the role is either temporarily or permanently remote.
What to Look For In a Returnship Program
If you are interested in pursuing a Returnship program as a path back into the workforce, here are a few things to look for as you evaluate the program and the position:
- Will you be part of a cohort of people hired at the same time?
- Is there a plan for professional skills training for Returnship hires?
- Will you be assigned a mentor or a buddy to help you navigate the company?
- Does the company hope to hire the Returnship participants on a full-time basis at the conclusion of the Returnship program? Be sure your expectations are in line with the companies’ plans on the subject of full-time employment.
- If the company has run a Returnship before, what percent of Returnship participants joined the company full-time at the conclusion of the program?
These are Paid Positions!
Returnships are paid work opportunities! You will be performing professional-level work and should expect to be paid for this work at a rate in line with the job market.
Can You Suggest A Returnship To A Company?
Yes! If you are pursuing a job at a company and are encountering resistance because you’ve been out of the workforce for a period of time, suggest a Returnship. You can always educate the employer about Returnships by sharing an article like this one. In lieu of a structured Returnship program, you can suggest the idea of a shorter-term project or contract work that could convert to full-time work in the future. If you and an employer are making arrangements like this, be sure to get the agreement in writing so you are both clear on what you’re committing to. And remember that both parties need to perform up to expectations in order for that conversion to a full-time position to make sense.
Mentoring In Returnship Programs
Mentors are typically assigned to Returnship participants to help ease their transition back to work and to help them succeed at the organization. Your mentor is likely to be someone in a senior position at the company and have the perspective of a seasoned veteran. They can help you navigate corporate culture, your relationship with your manager, and many other situations you might encounter as a new employee. If you are assigned a mentor, be sure to discuss how you plan to work together, how often you’ll meet and the types of things your mentor is willing and able to advise you on.
Be sure to let your mentor know of any areas that you might need extra support in, so they can be prepared to assist with those.
You might also be assigned a buddy in the organization. Your buddy might be a colleague at your same level who can provide you a perspective of a teammate and who you should feel comfortable asking any question of. Similar to your mentor, you’ll want to get clear on how you’ll work together. Talk about the best way for you to communicate and if you’ll meet on a schedule or if they’ll be available on an as-needed basis to answer questions for you.
How To Find Out About Returnship Programs
Join the Back to Business community and email list to learn more and to meet employers hiring for their Returnships. Returnships are also posted on company websites, specifically on their Careers page. Not every company has a Returnship program and most of those that do run them on a seasonal basis. Also, some companies might have a Returnship program but won’t be recruiting candidates when you are looking for a job. So check back often to see if / when the window for recruiting for the companies’ Returnship opens.
What Other Questions Do You Have?
Email me at katiedunn@BackToBusinessConference.com with your questions about Returnships. There’s a lot to know about these programs and I want to be sure you are armed with everything you need to be a strong Returnship candidate!
Join the Back to Business Community
Back to Business was started in 2015 to help women return to work after taking time off from their careers. We have built a community of women supporting each other during this important transition and we host the largest return-to-work conference in the Southeast, the Back to Business Women’s Conference. Join our email list to receive our best advice for your return to work and to stay updated on our events. We’re based in Raleigh, NC but welcome women from all over to join us!
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Networking 101 For Women Restarting Careers
Networking is an activity that few people love, but the benefits can be so huge that I want you to give it a try. For women restarting their careers, networking can be one of the most important components of your job search. So whether you love it or you hate it, let’s give it a try! I’ll show you how. Doing more networking (aka talking to people) is one of the big lessons learned from successful career restarters.
“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, the other gold”
If I remember correctly, that was a song we learned in Girl Scouts way back when. I’m sure at the time I didn’t realize what great advice this really is! Many people think about networking as meeting new people, and it definitely is that. But it can also be keeping in touch with the people you already know.
Nurture Your Current Network
When was the last time you touched base with the people you consider part of your network? Conventional job search advice will tell you to be constantly expanding your network – and I don’t disagree with this – but if it’s that valuable to be developing new connections, how much more valuable might it be to nurture the ones you already have?
Think about it: The people who already know you are going to be the most likely to think of you when they hear of a job opening, provide an enthusiastic referral for a job at their company, or make an introduction for you to someone they know.
Strengthen Your Network by Deepening Existing Relationships
Instead of growing your network this week, take some time to deepen your connections with people you already know. These can be your friends, neighbors, extended family, or previous colleagues. Have you told them that you’re looking for a job? If not, today is a great day to give them a call or drop them a friendly email to catch up on their lives and fill them in on yours.
This is Valuable For Women Restarting Careers Because…
I see a few distinct advantages to focusing your networking efforts on people you already know:
- Networking with friendly faces that you already know can be a real confidence booster. Once you send a few emails or have a few phone calls with friends/family/former colleagues, you’ll feel ready to grow your efforts and reach out to people you may not know as well.
- You’re going to get a good response rate if you send 5 emails to people you know inviting them to a coffee or phone call. This will energize your job search efforts! You are unlikely to experience as high a response rate when reaching out to people you don’t know, so enjoy this and channel that positive energy into doing some of the more difficult work of job search.
- People who know you well may be able to give you some good ideas about companies or positions that will be a good fit for your skill set. Your job search is going to benefit from creative ideas and new ways to approach things, so tap into this network of close friends to generate some fresh thinking.
Get Started Now On Your Networking Plan
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that your week is going to be well-spent by re-activating your current network.
Here’s how to get started:
- Make a list of 5 people you already know that you’d like to speak with.
- Send an email / text / or make a phone call to invite them to coffee or just to chat over the phone or Zoom to catch up.
- Approach each conversation with a clear goal in mind: Maybe one friend works at a company you’re interested in and you’d like to learn more about their hiring process, while another former colleague made a career pivot and you’re interested to find out how she pulled that off. If you know what you’re hoping to get out of each conversation, you’re more likely to be productive.
My last 3 pieces of advice for networking your way back to work:
- Don’t forget to ask your friends if there’s anything you can do for them. Remember, this is a give-and-take, so don’t forget to be a giver!
- And finally, send a thank you note after your call. People will do anything for someone who is appreciative of their time and effort!
- Check out the Back to Business Ultimate Guide To Returning To Work After a Career Break for more tips