Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Bringing the job market and marketplace into focus – Part 6: networking in support of making a career change

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 21, 2010

I have now posted over 100 times in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and this is my seventh posting in this series within the Guide on searching in our current economic climate and employment environment. In my last posting in this series, Throwing a Wider Job Search Net for Moving Forward I noted that the exercise I offered there was one of the more difficult for many that I have included in the Guide and the same advice applies here, as both seek to help you expand your search in new directions as an essential if you are to find opportunities outside of the range that you have been searching up to now.

This posting is about networking in pursuit of a career change and I start out by acknowledging a simple truth. We probably already know about most if not all of the job leads opportunities that our friends and acquaintances could share with us and this is certainly true for the people we know well and who we stay in active contact with. It is always possible that even our closest friend may come up with a new and unexpected lead but effectively using networking in pursuit of a career change is going to have to at least include moving outside of the comfort zone of your tried and true usual networking reach. Career change is all about stepping outside of your current comfort zone to create a wider comfort zone that can help you to identify and compete for new opportunity that you have not already been trying for.

I outline my laws and principles of good business networking at the top of Social Networking and Business at least in part because so many people see online networking as simply an alternative way to stay in touch with their current acquaintances – if they have a preconceived reason and justification for actually connecting with them online if they are to connect there at all. But online social networking also holds the potential for helping you to prepare in advance for novel and unexpected opportunities and challenges and for reaching out to connect with people and businesses you do not already know. Career change and breaking into new types of opportunity calls for this flexibility. So my exercise here is all about networking in new ways.

Start out by really asking yourself what your personal rules and principles are for business networking. What do you do now and where do you throw up roadblocks to connecting to people you do not know yet? Write out your rules and write out the reservations and concerns you have. Now look for disconnects where you limit yourself in networking reach in practice more stringently than your concerns and reservations would merit.

I am not proposing that you should start posting your email address and open invitations to connect on sites like LinkedIn all over town, and all over online. My goal is to prompt you to really think through what you do now and why, so you can realistically expand your networking to include people who can offer you value that you cannot find through your current networking reach. And at least consider the rules and principles I propose as cited above as a starting point, and know specifically why and how you would adjust them to meet your needs.

Add real content to your online profile(s). I do not mean content that would be used for identity theft but rather content that you would share with a business contact and that the people you would like to meet would find helpful in effectively networking with you for business purposes.

Look for people who you have reason to believe from their profiles, to be connected into businesses and industries that you have identified in your expanded new career search (see Part 5 in this series), and include people involved in professional organizations and other possible points of contact and information.

Where did you go to school? Connect more widely with your fellow alumni and if there are academic programs in your alma maters that connect with your new career goals in some way reach out to meet faculty members to see if any have contacts they could share with you too.

The idea here is to be creative and proactive, and to look for people who know people you would benefit from meeting and networking with. Read the four Jumpstart Your Networking postings listed under the social networking laws and rules and other resources for ideas and approaches and with the goal of making business networking a more effective tool for you in your search. Effective business networking is potentially the most valuable and effective tool you can have for a job search and certainly where you have to move into new areas as happens in any real career change – but only if you meet new people and find and access new opportunities and resources through it.

So if part one of this exercise is to really think through and understand the rules and principles that you have been following with your perhaps more ad hoc and restricted networking approach, part two is to read and in this blog and elsewhere to help you think through an expended and more systematic approach to networking that would work better for you. Part three, of course, is to start networking into this new comfort zone you have begun to map out.

I have posted fairly extensively on business social networking in both my Guide and in Social Networking and Business but this should only be a starting point. Look for business oriented online groups set up through sites like LinkedIn, Yahoo and Google that might connect with your interests and goals and join some. Read postings and see what types of things are discussed and how active the groups are. If they look to be useful for you start to participate and post to them too. If they are not helpful, you do not have to stay a member. Leave them and join other groups instead that are. This can include alumni groups, functional specialty or industry groups or groups established with an orientation towards any of a wide range of other defining criteria for membership and relevant participation. And network and use information gained there to help you pursue exercises of the sort I presented in Part 5 of this series and in the rest of your search.

There is a progression to the postings in this series, and just as effective networking calls for a clearer understanding of what you would network for and about, the next posting here will benefit from feedback obtainable at least in part from more effective networking. This next posting will focus on issues like retraining and selecting professional organizations to join, and filling in potential gaps in your experience, credentials and resume.

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