Networking is something many job seekers get into reluctantly. It can feel awkward if you haven’t done much of it before. What do you do, where do you start?
Losing your job, especially, can make you want to hold back from meeting new people and talking about yourself. What will you say when they ask what you do, and more importantly, how will you project confidence when so much of your identity had been wrapped up in a job you were forced to leave?
It’s understandable then that as soon as you do land a job, you’d want to stop networking. The desire to dive into your new cubicle or office and bury yourself in your work can be very strong. And it’s easy to use the excuse of being too busy learning your new job to get out there and network.
In an ideal world, you’d keep up some networking momentum, perhaps shifted down a gear or two. What this current job market has illustrated is that having a strong network on the look out for opportunities for you, and willing to recommend you for them, is the key to minimizing your time in the unemployment line.
An ever ready network
Since you never know when you’ll need your network again, before you withdraw back into your comfort zone, there are a few things you can do to make sure your network is ready to go again whenever you are:
1) Close the loops
- Update your LinkedIn profile. Add in your new company, title and job description. Rewrite your summary, if necessary.
- Update your contacts. LinkedIn allows you to send a message to up to 50 contacts at a time. If you send out an email blast, be sure that all of the recipient emails are listed in the bcc line to maintain everyone’s privacy and avoid multiple “Reply All” emails.
- Send a personal thank you email or handwritten note to anyone who helped you during your search. While you should have been doing this all along, if you missed anybody, now is the perfect time to make up for it. It will only get more awkward the longer you wait.
2) Start making internal inroads
- Get introduced to the people around you. Being proactive in meeting people in both your department and adjacent ones, rather than waiting for them to come to you, will help you get up to speed more quickly and be more effective in your job.
- Join the LinkedIn and Facebook groups for your new company, and follow your new employer on Twitter. Sometimes it’s the best way to stay updated on news and developments.
3) Maintain your outside network
- Make a commitment that at least once a month you’ll have lunch away from your desk and away from your closest co-workers to catch up with outside colleagues.
- If you haven’t already done so, check out the professional associations for your industry and search LinkedIn for relevant industry groups to join.
All of these activities keep you visible and in the flow of new ideas and opportunities that can help advance your career. They also keep you in the right mindset for networking. When you’re not putting pressure on yourself to get something, you put less pressure on others, and at the same time, become more comfortable with networking overall.
Liz Lynch is founder of the Center for Networking Excellence and author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online (McGraw-Hill, 2008). Connect with Liz on Twitter at @liz_lynch and get your free Smart Networking Toolkit at http://www.SmartNetworking.com.