On business: Holiday networking — a gift to give and to receive
Special to the Tribune
“Monica” thought she was secure in her job as a bookkeeper for a flooring company. When the tide turned her company was forced to close its doors. The layoff hit her hard. The days following she sought solace in her garden. One day a neighbor called out, “Is it your day off?” “No, I’m not working right now but I’m looking for a new job,” Monica answered, ignoring her nagging embarrassment. They chatted for a while, about nothing in particular. The following week the phone rang. “The doctor’s office where I work is looking for someone to fit glasses and schedule appointments” her neighbor said, “Would you be interested?” “I don’t know anything about eye care or glasses “ Monica replied. “Don’t worry, I’ll teach you.” Monica worked for “Dr. Silverstein,” for the next 10 years. When he retired, she was his office manager.
“Gerard,” a project manager in the aerospace industry, was also blindsighted when his pink slip arrived. With four kids and a wife he knew he needed to get back to work ASAP. Through school and children, his wife knew “Julie” who worked for a company who employed engineers in the same industry. She invited Julie and her family for dinner. Julie was friendly with “Margaret,” the human resource manager. As they drove off that evening Julie called out “I’ll make sure Margaret gets your résumé. She’ll see to it that it gets to the right people. Gerard’s interview is scheduled the week after Christmas, yes during the holidays!
These true-life stories are examples of networking but it is really just friends and colleagues hiring friends and colleagues. Better put, people helping other people. Holiday festivities offer prime opportunities for these interactions. Allow your network to expose hidden job market opportunities that might be perfect for you. What is the hidden job market? Jobs not advertised. You learn about them through friends, family, neighbors, former co-workers and even acquaintances. Don’t allow these common excuses to sideline your success.
“I don’t like asking for favors.” Networking shouldn’t be viewed through “What can you do for me?” glasses. It’s a give and take activity. You too have resources to offer, maybe not now but down the road. It doesn’t necessarily have to be work related. Networking is mutually beneficial. No need to feel as though you’re groveling. You are a link in a chain of information that flows two ways.
“Social settings make me squirm.” Not all of us are extroverts but none of us lack a unique style. Social settings allow us to engage in casual conversation where our personalities can emerge and even shine. It’s possible you might be asked questions that make you feel uncomfortable. “What do you do?” or “Where do you work” for example. Be ready. Anticipate answers that will invite interest and deflect negativity. Practice your 30-second “elevator” speech” and eventually you’ll get it right even if it takes a little time. Be patient but also persistent with yourself. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Step out of your comfort zone for the sake of your success.
“My ego is bruised. I’m embarrassed.” Put things in perspective. Your job title does not define you. If Monica succumbed to this excuse she would have missed an opportunity. You might feel uneasy saying you are not working and yes, making cold calls to re-establish relationships with people you haven’t talked to in a while might feel awkward at first. But chances are you’ll pay it forward. This bump in the road can lead to possibilities you’ve not yet considered. Adversity often turns into a blessing.
“I avoid social networking.” If you’re not familiar with social networking it’s time to get on board. Establish new connections on LinkedIn, advertise your business on FaceBook, display visuals on Pinterest and reach out to a growing audience on Twitter. Don’t resist change. Get involved; get noticed, get up to date.
“I’m working. Who cares?” Always keep your network close. Networking shouldn’t surface only between jobs. There’s no need to be pesky. Drop an email every now and then to a former colleague. Share common interest news items. Invite connections to a seminar or workshop. Make a random phone call just to say hi. Remember that it’s important to be there for your network when they need you. Helping each other is what it’s all about.
— Gloria Sinibaldi is a career professional who has worked in the employment field for more than 20 years. She is a trainer coach and job developer. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.