Networking is a hot topic, and for good reasons. There is anecdotal evidence that around 70 per cent of jobs are found through networking. My own work life bears witness to this: I have always found a job or a contract through someone I know, or via a friend of a friend. I’ve had interviews following replies to adverts, but I’ve never got the job. Some form of personal connection – however tenuous – has always led me to find work.
Even though I spent two years researching and writing FINDING WORK AFTER 40, with much time devoted to perfecting my co-author’s chapter on networking, I still discover new ways to apply networking principles. The one I’m about to describe is so simple I’m amazed that Liam and I didn’t think to mention it.
First: credit where credit is due. The idea came from Roger Smith, who leads the Richmond Borough Job Club every Monday morning in a meeting room at The Stoop, the Harlequin’s rugby ground. Roger invited me for a visit last week. I found a well-run club in congenial surroundings, with members who were all (as far as I could tell) talented, educated and over 40. The meeting began with people sharing their recent experiences with job search, and offering advice and support to each other.
And then it was my turn. I mentioned issues and solutions for older workers as discussed in our book, and then went on to describe my own ideas for a job club I plan on starting in Hampton Wick. Roger thought his members could offer useful feedback, and they certainly did. As well as receiving affirmation for the concept of a learning module type of club – where members improve job search skills as well as providing support to each other – one person suggested a module I had clearly missed. I’ve now added “Changing Sectors” to my list.
The meeting continued with a discussion that came to rest on networking. I told the story of Phil, someone I’ve mentored. Phil had started his own business as an office designer. When we first met, he told me he didn’t know how to cost a job, therefore he couldn’t quote for new business. I suggested he search his network. Phil contacted someone he worked with 19 years ago (and hadn’t spoken to since) and that man was only too happy to help Phil with instructions. It’s my favourite networking story.
Roger had his own favourite story. He once emailed someone he wanted to speak to and thanked them for something they’d done many years previously. The header read: “THANK YOU”. Of course the email was read – everyone likes to be thanked and respected – and Roger re-established a useful contact. Brilliant.
Many people have trouble thinking of ways to re-connect via email or telephone. If you share this problem, consider who you might thank. For my part, I’m saying a great big “THANK YOU” to Roger and the members of the Richmond Borough Job Club.
(Richmond Borough Job Club is part of the GB Job Clubs network. For a national list of job clubs click here: http://www.gbjobclubs.org/?page_id=30 )