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Strategic Networking After a Career Pause

Utilizing your connections is key when on the job hunt; the data proves it. It’s widely reported that nearly 85% of jobs are filled via networking. If you’re in a career transition, returning to work after a career pause, or making a career pivot, this number is even higher.

The good news: networking is more about quality than quantity. Take a strategic look at who is in your current network. It’s imperative to your successful re-entry. This will allow you to be methodical in expanding your network with the right connections which align with your goals.

Why is networking so important?

  • 75% of resumes are rejected due to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). To get around that, you need to use your network to get in front of hiring managers.

  • 60% of jobs are found via networking. Some jobs aren’t even posted online! So, talking with your network about open opportunities is crucial, especially if you’re looking for non-traditional roles, including part-time and job shares.

  • 72% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find and vet candidates. If you’re searching for a job you must have a LinkedIn profile to grow your network and make it simple for others to find you.

  • The average job search takes about 5 months. Using your network can speed up that timeline. It can leapfrog you to the right open roles that are a good fit.

I’ve been out of the workforce for years...where do I even start?

Take stock of your current relationships, both personal and professional. These range from dormant professional contacts, to relationships formed during volunteer (or pro bono) work. At The Swing Shift, we break down your contacts into five groups, to help you organize your work efficiently and effectively. Ideally, you want a few of each of these folks in your network as you commence your search. If you don’t have these yet, don’t sweat it! Just be thoughtful as you grow your network, and keep in mind these types of people can help you reach your career goals faster and easier.

Cheerleaders: These are your personal board of directors, career coach, and career minded friends. They are optimistic and encouraging, but don’t hesitate to give you constructive feedback. Check in with them often, as the job search emotional roller coaster can often be challenging. Many of our Accountability Program participants utilize their groups long after the program wraps up for this purpose.

Connectors: These are people that seem to know everyone and truly enjoy parties and events. Identify them in your personal network, as well as the industry you’re interested in. Make sure they know your goals and what you need to move forward. Connectors thrive off helping others, and finding the right people to connect you with is their superpower.

Thought Leaders: These don’t necessarily have to only be the “experts” in your role or field. Thoughts leaders can also be recruiters at companies you're interested in, job search experts, those that are well respected or have many years of experience in whatever you decide to pursue. Connect with them on social media, especially LinkedIn. And, many of these people are active on other platforms. Seek them out, digitally or in-person, introduce yourself and engage with what they have to say.

Membership Directors: Volunteers in charge of membership at industry associations are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the current membership and their backgrounds, as well as sponsoring companies, which may be hiring. If you’re pivoting or looking to get back into an industry you’ve been out of for a while, check out local industry associations. (We say local because many are national with a local chapter.) Identify who the membership director is, then reach out to them! Introduce yourself, let them know why you’re interested in learning more, and ask if this particular association is a good fit for you. Also, asking if there are current members you could reach out to is a great way to not only learn, but also expand your professional network in a natural manner.

Returners: Sometimes these people can be harder to find since we spend so much time trying to camouflage our breaks on resumes or LinkedIn. This said, they are a rich source of guidance and opportunity. Ask your network who they know who’ve taken a significant career pause or made a huge pivot. Get their advice on what they would do differently or what helped them. Usually they are also first in line to do what they can to help you move forward. The Swing Shift Community on Facebook is also a great place to ask for help and find women who have successfully navigated a career transition.

Identifying these types of people within your current network, local community, desired industry or role is a more strategic way to expand your network in an efficient and less stressful way.

Networking isn’t about making hundreds of connections. It’s about cultivating relationships with a few well-connected people in your community - personal and professional - who understand your goals and can introduce you to a few more well-connected people that align with what you’re looking to achieve.

This part 1 of a 3 part series on networking, outlining strategies and easy first steps to kick off your 2022 job search. For even more modern job search tips be sure to purchase a copy of Back to Business, your go-to guide for getting back to work after a career pause.

Stay up to date on what’s happening with The Swing Shift by following along on social @theswingshiftco!


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