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
Moms, Learn from These Lessons In Restarting Your Career
Today I want to share 4 big lessons in restarting a career that I’ve learned over the past 8 years from my own personal experience of returning to work after a career break and that of the hundreds of women I’ve talked to and coached through this transition. The job market of 2023 is challenging, so let’s learn all we can from people who have restarted their careers before us.
Restarting your career can be done, but it often takes longer than you think it should
The big take-away here is “it can be done.” I promise, it can. There are lots of women out there who have taken career breaks and then resumed their careers. And while we both know that you’re amazing and highly qualified for that awesome job, job search is called a “process” for a reason. It can move slowly, and it often involves trial-and-error that can lead to changing directions. Be flexible and be prepared for a long process. Keep a journal along the way so you can capture all that you’re learning about yourself and the companies and people you encounter. There is nothing wasted in this process, you can use almost every experience to get better. Even the frustrating ones!
You control much of the process as you restart your career
Keep this in mind, especially on the days when if feels like you’re not making progress. You control how much time you put in on your job search, what your resume looks like, how prepared you are for an interview, the types of jobs you apply for, how good your cover letter is and how you present yourself to potential employers, among other things.
You do not control a hiring manager’s decisions. Importantly, you also control your reaction after you receive bad news (or no news, as is often the case) while you are job-searching. Focus on what you can control and do your very best with those things. Invest in yourself. Take a class to keep your credentials fresh. Re-activate your network by reaching out to former colleagues. Scary? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!
You don’t pick up where you left off when you restart your career
I’ve heard the following from so many women: “I took a job making a lot less than I used to but it was worth it just to get my foot in the door.” Ladies, all you need is a place to start, or re-start. When it presents itself, take it and run with it.
Just yesterday I received this email:
“ I attended your first Back to Business Conference and it gave me hope I could return to the corporate world after taking 16 yrs off to raise 4 children.
Thanks to networking, I was able to relaunch my career nearly 3.5 years ago. There were definitely challenges returning… I basically started back at entry level working with recent college grads and accepted a salary significantly less than I made in 2000! But now, the sky is the limit because I have recent work experience at the top of my resume again.”
I love this! My favorite part is: “the sky is the limit because I have recent work experience at the top of my resume again.” It’s almost magic how recent work experience practically erases the impact of a career break on your resume. As they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Take that step.
Get out from behind your computer to make it happen
Let me guess: You’ve been applying for jobs online, diligently attaching your resume and cover letter to job applications. Stop doing that! Your time is much better spent connecting personally with people who do what you want to do or who work at companies you’d like to work for.
You shouldn’t stop applying altogether, but restarting your career requires a balanced job search plan that includes as much person-to-person talking and meeting as you can schedule.
The online job application is often a black hole, while meeting in person with another human is not. Tell the people you meet with exactly what you’re looking for so they know how to help you.
To wrap up, remember to be patient and stay positive when returning to work takes longer than you expected, focus on what you can control, take a long-term view and don’t worry about returning to work at a lower level or salary than you previously had. And finally, focus your job-search efforts on making personal connections. Here’s a blog on networking as you restart your career.
You’ve got this – I believe in you!
Job Search Tips for Moms Returning to Work
Calling all Moms doing a job search to return to work after a career break! This is an exciting life change for you and Back to Business is here to guide you through it.
Here is a quick list of our job search tips for Moms returning to work:
Looking for a job is your job now. Schedule time to do this work and stick to the schedule.
Spend some time up front thinking about what you want to do. You don’t have to narrow it down to one option – recognize that there are multiple possibilities that could work for you and be flexible enough to change course as you learn more about yourself and the job market throughout your job search. My favorite book on this subject: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
Invest in yourself. A few things worth spending money on as you restart your career are a killer resume, a course to update your skills, and professional coaching to ensure you know how to conduct a job search in 2023.
Set goals for yourself and write them down: Reach out to 3 new people each day, schedule 3 informational interviews each week, find 3 interesting new companies per day. Reward yourself with a healthy treat for meeting your goals.
Realize that this can take longer than you’d like. Persevere. Learn from your mistakes – because you will make some. Pick yourself up and keep going, even when it gets frustrating.
Set up informational interviews. You will learn a lot and grow your network by doing informational interviews. (And you thought these were just for kids!) Buying someone a cup of coffee and learning from them is a highly productive way to spend job-searching time. I’ve got a guide to mastering this process.
Have a supportive network as you transition back to the paid workforce. Looking for a job is hard work and it can be frustrating. You will need a tribe to help you get through it. Plan to meet regularly with them – coffee every Friday morning, for example. Keep each other accountable and encourage each other.
Get out from behind your computer! You will not find a job from the comfort of your home – this I promise you. You must get out and talk to people if you want a job. This can be uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier and you may even enjoy it as you get better at it.
Your job will come from your network, not from a job posting you saw on the internet. Start building your network today and you will reap the benefits of being a connected person for the rest of your career.
Networking is all about building relationships with people – it is a give and take. You may not realize it, but you’ve been networking your whole life and you already know how to do it. Be interesting and interested in other people and always ask what you can do for them. Here’s how.
Don’t let the “what if’s” keep you from pursuing a job you want. When Mom returns to work, the entire family has to adjust – and they will. “What if I can’t pick up at school every day?” and “What if I can’t make dinner every night?” are valid concerns, but don’t hold back on getting a job you’d like because there’s a chance that others in your house will be inconvenienced. You can outsource almost anything and planning ahead will solve a lot of these dilemmas.
Consider a Returnship. Returnships are jobs specifically created to welcome people back to the workforce after taking a career break. Check out my blog on Returnships to learn more.
Get Back to Business! Back to Business holds Meet-ups and workshops in the Raleigh, NC area and offers useful information and resources in blogs and through ebooks in order to help women returning to work. Visit us at www.backtobusinessconference.com.
Moms, how do you know if you’re ready to go back to work?
As with many of the choices we make as moms, determining if I was ready to go back to work was a decision that affected others besides just myself and that made it somewhat difficult.
Here’s how I knew I was a mom ready to go back to work in a full-time role after not working or working part-time for 12 years:
- I found myself thinking “I can’t wait until I’m at work and my kids have to figure out on their own how to solve many of the problems they come to me for help with now.” Let’s be clear: By “problems” I don’t mean the real issues that kids today face (and I believe there are many), because I plan to always be there to help guide my children in the important matters. I know that the bond I’ve invested in forming with them will allow me to do that whether I’m a mom working outside of the home or not.
By problems, I mean the simple stuff that arises on a daily basis. Maybe you’re familiar with these crises:
“Where’s my sports uniform?”
“I need a clean shirt for tomorrow!”
“I can’t think of anything to write about for this homework assignment.”
I admit that sometimes, against my better judgment, I’ll solve their problems for them because it’s quicker, easier and lets us get places on time. But imagine if they had to solve the small stuff on their own. They’d be forced to take initiative and exercise the time management skills that would compel them to plan ahead and organize. I know that being independent and self-reliant enough to handle small issues on their own would translate into the confidence to tackle some of life’s bigger issues down the road.
- You feel like you’ve paid your dues as a school volunteer. You no longer feel obligated to chaperone every field trip, run every fundraiser or serve on every school committee. You’re looking forward to giving someone else a chance to get this experience. I used to feel a nagging obligation to respond to every Sign-Up Genius I received.
But after years of PTA, room mom, sports and general school volunteering, I am comfortable being selective about which volunteer gigs I sign up for. It’s still important to me to do my share, but the key words here are “my share.” As a SAHM, I imagined that if I were a mom back at work, I might feel a little less obligated to volunteer for everything (and I was right!).
- You’re interested in what the people around you do for a living. You find yourself asking people where they work, what’s new in their industry and how they got into that line of work. Without even realizing it, you are networking! This is a great way to enter into that exploratory phase of job-hunting.
Figuring out where in the marketplace you fit and who will value your skills is a key step in a successful job search and critical for a mom going back to work. Do more of these “informational interviews”! Check out this blog on how to do a good informational interview.
- You are craving a more intellectual outlet for your talent. Stop referring to the years you worked as “my past life” and realize that you are a perfect accumulation of all of the experiences you’ve had over your lifetime. The “working you” is no different from the “mom you” or the “volunteer you”. It’s all you! You’re just exercising different skills at different times.
And, by the way, all of those skills are valuable – you just have to market them the right way when approaching potential employers. Moms, as you go back to work, you’ll draw on the organizational, communication, and planning skills you used to manage your family. If you’re looking for some tips on how to get started, I’ve got you covered!
You might consider a Returnship as you return to the paid workforce. These are internship-like positions that were created specifically for people returning to the workforce.
Transitioning back into the workforce after stepping off the career track can be a daunting task. But so is being a parent! If you’re a mom thinking about going back to work, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to start a new chapter in your life.
Let’s dust off that resume, take a look at your skills and see where they are needed in the job market of 2023. You might consider refreshing your skills with a course that will help you fill a gap in your skillset. Or you might consider investing in professional coaching that will help you target the right job, write a modern resume and get started on your job search. Back to Business is here for you when you’re ready.
I loved the time I spent at home with my family and would make the same choice to take a long career break if given the chance to do it over again. And I’m also glad that I returned to the paid workforce when I was ready to do so.
Moms, there is lots of joy to be found both working at home and participating in the paid workforce. Join our community of moms going back to work and let’s support each other through these important life changes.
And if you need a few good reasons to return to work after a career break, check out this blog for inspiration.