How to Network Like a Pro, Even When You’re Unemployed
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Networking is essential especially when you’re out of work but this can also be the most difficult time to try to stay connected. You may feel uncomfortable discussing your situation, and you probably lack the money for expensive conferences and business lunches.
There are many ways to maintain and strengthen your professional network without shaking your confidence or draining your bank account. Try these ideas for reaching out to those who can help you advance your career.
Preparing to Network When You’re Unemployed
1. Conduct research. Clarify the direction you want to take with your job search. Think about whether you want to remain in the same field or try something new. Do you want to start your own business or join an established company? Stay up to date on industry news and trends. Identify the companies and people you want to contact.
2. Write up your plan. Put your long and short term goals down on paper. Develop a daily, weekly and monthly action plan. Spell out your objectives for every meeting and event you attend. Decide if you’ll be asking your contacts for advice, leads, or both.
3. Rehearse an elevator pitch. Be prepared to answer when people ask what you do. You may want to describe yourself as a job seeker rather than saying you’re unemployed. Let others know what type of openings you’re interested in. It’s helpful to give 3 typical job titles and/or 3 companies or industries of interest so people know how to help.
4. Update your online profiles. Make sure that your latest achievements are included on LinkedIn and other networking websites. Is your summary compelling or does it need revising? Would someone who didn’t know you or know your industry understand your summary? Are your career objectives clear? Are you giving a good overview of what you have to offer an employer?
5. Publish content. Start a professional blog, write articles on LinkedIn or contribute to an industry publication.
6. Remember your value. Long job searches can be particularly stressful. Reflect on your talents and contributions. Think about the tasks you’ve enjoyed in your past jobs. What are some of the responsibilities/projects you enjoyed the most? Being able to discuss what you loved about your last job is compelling to the listener. Do you know why? Because you will light up when you describe your accomplishments. Employers want to hire someone who loves their work, that’s great for business and the company culture. Smile and project confidence.
Reaching Out to Your Network When You’re Unemployed
1. Help others. Serving others is the heart of networking. Spend more time listening than talking. Be generous with your support and expertise.
2. Schedule coffee dates. Inviting others out for a latte is cheaper than a full meal. Invest in your future by picking up the tab.
3. Find short term work. Think creatively about meaningful activities you can put on your resume. Consider temporary assignments or contract work. Print up cards and start your own consulting business. You may find leads among your new colleagues and clients.
4. Volunteer in your community. Unpaid work counts too. Pick up new skills, such as tutoring children or cleaning up a park.
5. Participate in your professional association. If you can afford it, stay active in the local chapter of your professional association. Browse Meetup.com for relevant groups that may be free or very affordable.
6. Join a job club. Collaborate with your fellow job hunters. Your local library or church may sponsor a group. Or you can even start your own. Share leads and encouragement.
7. Take classes. Additional training and education will strengthen your qualifications and give you the chance to make new contacts. If you’re struggling to pay the tuition, ask if you can exchange your services for a discount. Some instructors may appreciate having a class assistant.
8. Follow up. Success depends on your efforts and diligence. Send thank you notes promptly. Check in with your contacts regularly. To avoid coming across as too persistent, ask how long you should wait before getting back in touch with them.
Use the time between jobs to expand your network and discover new opportunities. Helping others is the most effective way to lift your spirits and find your next position.