5 Great Ways to Network As a Mature Professional
The best way to insulate your career from the many changes going on in the market is to skillfully establish your personal brand in the eyes of current and future employers. It takes work, but is easier that you would think.
One of the easiest ways, and one where YOU have a competitive advantage, is to employ networking to take advantage of your decades of experience. Here are 5 key ways to use your network to advance your career.
- Network Through Your Professional Association
Exploit your membership in your professional associations by serving on the board, or mentoring younger members. Volunteer to lead a mentoring group, or hold weekly webinars for members seeking to develop their skills. Make sure you show up at industry association events early, to meet and greet everyone as they enter and leave.
While many association members may be younger than you are, you will end up running into lots of your older peers and former colleagues at meetings as well. They may be impressed with your leadership and mentoring role. Invite that old friend or colleague to lunch or coffee, and mention your interest in a new opportunity. Want to keep your current job? Invite your boss to the association’s meeting, and let him see you actively regarded by your peers as an industry leader.
Volunteer on the membership committee of your association so you have access to all the member data. Find the hiring manager for a company you want to work for. If you know him, ask to reconnect. If you don’t know your target, ask for an in-office meeting to discuss his association membership. Perhaps you can propose a group membership, or ask him to become more active or attend the next meeting as your guest. In any event, use the opportunity to build a relationship while showcasing yourself as an active member of your professional community.
- Actively Connect with Former Friends and Colleagues
Go through your phonebook, Rolodex (if you still have one), LinkedIn and email database and find former colleagues, and then reach out to them. Suggest coffee, lunch or a drink after work to catch up if they are local, or a call on their drive to or from work to chat when it is convenient for them. Find out what they are doing, and update them on your recent accomplishments. Let them know that while you are fine with your current employer, but you are seeking a new challenge that will excite and ignite you. Ask if they know anyone looking for a stellar candidate like you, or if they know about any openings in their company or elsewhere. Tell them you’d love to work with them if they ever have an opportunity where you can work as a team again.
By far, the top way people get hired is through a referral from someone who works for the hiring company. Ask your friend or colleague to forward your resume to the person who would be your future boss, or the CEO, and to copy the VP of HR.
Remember, people hire people they know and trust. Refresh them on your many skills and talents so you will be top of mind when a job opens up.
- Network Through Your Alumni Association
One of the very best ways to network is through your college’s alumni association. They can give you a list of all the alumni in your city or state, along with contact information. They may have an online database of alumni you can search by city, state, industry, employer, past employers, job title, and more.
Join the social media pages of your school and your school alumni association — focus on Facebook and LinkedIn. You can reach out through a post saying “I’d like a referral to someone in XYZ Corporation. Can you help me reach someone in the XYZ department?” You’ll be amazed at the response.
Most local alumni associations offer local events or socials; attend as many as possible. If there is no local alumni association where you live, start one. It’s easy; just call the alumni office and tell them where you live and offer to start a local chapter. They will send you a whole packet of information, along with the database of all alumni in the region. Then email and call everyone on the list and ask to meet after work at 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. on a weekday at a bar or restaurant for a networking social or dinner. You will have an immediate bond with other alumni due to the power of affinity. You can set up your alumni contact database using Mail Chimp to send out email invites, and manage your invitations to attend and reservations on an EventBrite page.
- Network Through Churches, Temples, Religious, Family-oriented or Civic Organizations
All religious organizations are great ways to network. So are organizations that support your family members — PTA, band boosters, or athletic boosters for school organizations, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, and hundreds more.
Many civic or service organizations are dedicated to doing good for the community, and often their members and volunteers tend to be professionals with great contacts.
Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Manufacturers’ Associations and any other organization that represents your type of employer are great ways to network. Join them representing your current company, so you have an engagement platform. Your company may pay for it if it is an organization that is relevant to your current position.
- Conduct Interviews for a Book or Article or Paper You Are Writing
Everyone wants to feel special and have their opinions heard. An audacious but effective technique is to contact the hiring manager or CEO or VP of Human Resources of a company you would like to work for, and ask to interview them for a paper you are preparing. Make sure the request is legitimate. Plan to interview a dozen or so different people and write a thoughtful article on LinkedIn, if you don’t have another publishing platform like a blog or a legitimately forthcoming book. Come up with a theme that showcases your skills and expertise, and ask their opinion about it. In my case, as a career coach, it might be about their attitudes towards older workers, concern about turnover among millennials, their employee skills shortage, what internal training programs they offer, what benefits they offer, innovations they are using or evaluating in the recruiting function, their forecast for advanced technologies like IT, robotics, virtual reality to change the nature of the workforce in the next 5 years, etc. Engage in an insightful conversation, subtly showcase your own knowledge and experience, and ask their opinions and respond and give appreciative feedback. When you post the article on your blog or on LinkedIn, write an email with a link to the article to continue the conversation, and ask for their comment on LinkedIn. You will have established yourself as a thought leader, and bright and inquisitive professional, on top of your game. That’s the impression you want to create. You will have established a relationship that allows you to talk with an influential person in the company, and leverage that to enquire on how you can contribute to the success of the company in the future.
Networking is one area where you have an advantage over younger workers. Make a commitment to exploit this competitive advantage to network your way to career success.
Learn more about Diane Huth on the blogpage dedicated to our show where she was a guest.