If you’re in a job transition, you may be in a conundrum when it comes to the activity you need to do the most. Networking is the clear best path to getting your next job, but options for doing that might not be as plentiful as you would like.
I’m seeing this as I talk with others in transition, and also realizing how lucky I am to live around where I do.
There are plenty of opportunities for networking out there. Aside from within a job, especially if you interact with clients, customers or vendors, the best options are generally conferences, professional organization meetings, or events whose lone goal is networking. There are national organizations like Network After Work in a lot of major cities; I am fortunate to have easy access to two, in Manchester and Boston.
One thing that I am sensing may not be true in a lot of cases, however, is that where I am there are a lot of networking groups specifically aimed at people in a job transition. That may seem to be an odd need, but it is a niche that has taken off in these parts over the years.
I remember when I first found out about such an organization, WIND (Wednesday Is Networking Day) in the metropolitan Boston area. I learned of it from an outplacement agency that I had access to for some time after I was laid off from my first post-college job. At first, I thought, “Okay… but these people don’t have jobs, either, so how does this help?” Of course, that was when I was a networking neophyte. All of these people know other people who are employed, or who know people who are employed.
On past occasions where I have been in transition, WIND has been a big part of what I have done, because networking was at the forefront, though each meeting would also have a speaker for some aspect of the job search process (at times, the speaker was the facilitator, who is usually a career coach).
Now, though, WIND is far from alone around here. In fact, one active networker has kept a document with information on these organizations, and it’s a fairly lengthy list. The list is basically eastern and central Massachusetts, as well as New Hampshire, and it includes a few noteworthy one-stop career centers run by the respective states since many of them include networking events. During my current transition, I have been to meetings for four of them, as well as one from a career center not on the list (that is unfortunately on a two-month hiatus right now).
In other words, there’s an embarrassment of riches here.
There is something to be said for such organizations. Being in a job transition is challenging, with a lot of ups and downs. There are often fits and starts; there is hope, and then that hope may get dashed; there may be a stretch with several good developments, then a dead period. Being around others who are dealing with this helps, because they can identify and also share what has helped them through it. In addition, it is perhaps easier to design a program around such a population, one that includes structured and open networking time as well as having someone talk about an aspect of the job search (resumes, interviews, researching a company, or an aspect of networking among many others).
If you’re a job seeker, your strategy for networking should include a mix of events aimed at job seekers and ones aimed at everyone, as well as any you can get to that are professional in nature (professional organization meetings, conferences, etc.) That allows you to meet a solid cross-section of professionals both within and otherwise loosely connected to your industry and possibly jobs or companies you may be interested in.
I am fortunate to be in an area where there are plenty of options. Hopefully, those who live in areas without as many options will have more of them before long. They deserve as much, and this also has me thinking of something else to write about later on.