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Networking After a Layoff: How to Avoid the Schmooze Blues

networking after a layoff

If you’ve recently been laid off, perhaps the last thing you want to do is get up at dawn, put on your suit and commute across town to “speed network” with a bunch of strangers to talk about the fact that you are currently unemployed. Depending on your personality, you may love or hate networking. But especially when you are between jobs, networking might sound more like punishment than potential.

Whether networking on social media, via email or in real life, there are a number of protocols you should follow to avoid the “schmooze blues.” Use these tips for networking online and in person to make sure you don’t miss opportunities—or worse—totally embarrass yourself.

Tips for Networking Online Between Jobs

Google Yourself

The first step in online networking is assessing what information currently resides on the Internet about you. These days, potential employers are savvy enough to do at least some online research about job candidates, and you may be surprised to learn what things you have been posting that are viewable to anyone.

The goal should be to present an image of someone who is hireable, even on your personal social media accounts.

To find out what others can see, log out of all your social media accounts and online forums and do a Google search for your name. If you have a common name, you may also want to put in the city (for example “John Smith, Racine, Wisconsin”).

You may be able to tighten up your privacy settings on each platform to show certain pieces only to your friends or followers. But if you have explicit hot tub party pictures on Instagram or fiery political rants on Twitter, it might be safest just to delete those posts.

In the end, it’s up to you how you want to portray yourself online. Just remember that “putting it all out there” could backfire when job hunting.

Get on LinkedIn

If you’re not already on LinkedIn, it’s definitely time to get onboard. Most people regard LinkedIn as the top social media platform for professional networking. Unlike Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, LinkedIn is all about work, which makes it a fertile ground for building professional relationships and job hunting. Your profile should focus on your experience, knowledge, skills and connections (and not about what you had for dinner last night).

If you are already on LinkedIn, make sure your profile is up to date and complete. Add volunteering opportunities, past certifications and training, and anything else that might be relevant to a potential employer.

Don’t underestimate the power of a great headshot. Having an approachable, professional portrait on your social media accounts can go a long way into making a good first impression.

Join LinkedIn Groups to connect with people in your industry, alumni of your school, and members of local business and professional groups.

Get testimonials and endorsements that speak to your skills.

Check out this comprehensive list of tips for optimizing your LinkedIn profile to maximize your opportunities to connect, search for jobs and be recruited.

Start a Blog or Personal Website

In addition to having a well-crafted paper resume and top notch LinkedIn profile, it’s a good idea to start a blog on WordPress.com or Blogger.com or a personal website using an inexpensive tool such as Weebly.com or Wix.com.

Creating a personal website that showcases your experience, skills, past work and knowledge allows you to take control of what potential employers discover about you on the Internet. Your website also helps establish your personal brand. It lets you showcase your personality in ways that are not possible on a standard resume. Everything from the design, the images you choose and what information is most noticeable says a lot about what kind of employer or career you are trying to attract.

Mind Your Manners

Building meaningful relationships online is not unlike building relationships in real life. Coming across as pushy, needy, selfish or overly aggressive can quickly turn people off.

Before delving into a new social platform, understand the site culture and rules. On one site, it may be perfectly acceptable to post 25 pictures of your kid’s birthday party, whereas that may be frowned upon in another platform.

Find ways to add value to your connections by posting informative or interesting content. Share and comment on other people’s posts to show support. Write meaningful recommendations for people you have worked with.

Above all, go into each connection with a mindset of forging a mutually beneficial relationship. This will nearly always bear more fruit than trying to exploit friends and colleagues to help you find a job. Keep in mind, one-sided relationships don’t work.

Tips for Networking in Person after a Layoff

Being laid off can seriously impact your ego and confidence. When it comes to networking and looking for a new job, make sure to give yourself enough time to recover emotionally so you don’t end up having a break-down in the middle of a networking event. But remember, the sooner you get back out there, the better. Preparing with these tips for networking after a layoff can help turn your dread into determination.

Work on Your Elevator Pitch

The point of an elevator pitch is to present yourself in an assured, positive and succinct way when meeting new people in a professional setting.

Because you’re between jobs, a carefully crafted elevator pitch should mention your experience, skills and let people know you what type of new opportunities you are looking for. Here is an example of an elevator pitch:

“Hello, my name is Shalice Johnson. I am a sales person with more than 10 years of experience, most recently working for Greenbook Advertising agency. Before that I managed a staff of 5 other sales reps at Tillington Manufacturing. I’m currently looking for a full-time role in management in a marketing or advertising department at a larger company that is looking to grow its revenue.”

In a networking setting, there is no reason to announce up front that you were recently laid off, but be truthful about your layoff if asked about why you are looking for a new job. Prepare a response that reframes your layoff in the most positive light possible while still being accurate.

Practice and tweak your elevator pitch until it feels natural. This will give you the confidence to start out every conversation on the right foot.

Trade Business Cards

Make personal business cards with basic contact information and a link to your personal website or LinkedIn account where someone can learn more about your work experience.

Use an email account that looks professional and contains some variation of your name ([email protected]). Avoid anything that is silly or that could be mistaken for spam (think [email protected]).

Collect business cards from others to start building your network. Follow up after the event by connecting on LinkedIn or other professional platforms. Send a short email thanking them for their time and recapping who you are and your contact information. If you want to really impress someone, consider a hand-written note.

These small follow-up gestures will make you more memorable and offer people a way to easily get a hold of you later.

Set Networking Goals

Setting specific goals around networking keeps you on task and motivated.

If you’re not sure where to start networking, look to your professional industry organizations, have coffee with former colleagues, consider attending local business organizations like the chamber of commerce or search for professional networking groups on Meetup.com.

Create objectives of which groups you plan to join and how many events you plan to attend each week. Set a networking goal for yourself of how many people you would like to talk to by the end of an event or how many business cards you would like to collect. That way you will avoid the temptation to be a wall flower staring at your phone the whole time.

Hold yourself accountable to these goals, and pat yourself on the back when you achieve them. After all, it’s not easy networking after a layoff.

Request Informational Interviews

Instead of asking professional contacts, family friends and industry leaders for a job, seek their job search advice or learn more about what it is like to work at their company. Requesting informational interviews or job shadows with companies or people you admire can give you an advantage when the company is hiring down the road. Most people are often more willing to have a general conversation about their work than to invite you to interview for a job. Plus, you get a chance to get to know them in a more approachable environment, which will put you at ease when it comes time for a real interview.

Be sure to do your homework about the company and the person you’re speaking with so you have well informed questions and conversation starters. Be respectful of their time, and don’t expect the meeting to last for hours.

Conclusion

Whether you’re having lunch with a former colleague or forging connections online, taking these steps to prepare and hone your networking skills will help you achieve the results you want and land a new job in no time.

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