Whatever the economic climate happens to be, landing a new job is always challenging, especially if you are a woman returning to the workforce after a hiatus. Searching through job openings, competing against currently employed candidates, and preparing for interviews can feel overwhelming. And you know it’s the same thing that everyone else is doing. So what can you do that will give you an advantage? Something that other job seekers aren’t likely to be doing? How do you give yourself a leg-up in your job search?
(Read our complete Job Search Guide for Women Returning to the Workforce)
An often-overlooked aspect of a job search is networking. It might seem like a pointless exercise and may make you uncomfortable. But getting out of your comfort zone and meeting people you don’t know can have tangible benefits. If you get out and meet people, you will find that networking is really the unsung hero of the modern-day job search. Here are five of the many reasons why you should network while working towards reentering the workforce:
Free advice and support: Why pay someone for career advice when you can get it for free? Networking connects you to individuals of varying experience levels in your industry. You stand to benefit from speaking to peers who are currently in the workforce and this can give you a fresh perspective on what the job market looks like, the challenges in interviewing, payscale, etc. If you have been out of the workforce for a while, things are likely different from what you remember. Networking helps prime you for the moment when you are actually face to face with a potential employer. Speaking about your goals and experiences with other individuals gives you new insights and opens the door for valuable feedback and guidance.
Updated information on your industry: Industry networking events are a great place to exchange ideas and learn about new developments within your area of expertise. Information on new technologies and best practices can help with the process of getting up to speed after your career break. These efforts would not go unnoticed by a potential employer and is an indicator that you are eager to learn and contribute immediately. Networking can also help bring to light areas of deficit that you can develop. You might be inspired to take a new course that builds on your skillset after attending a networking session.
Confidence building: Being out of work can be a humbling experience. Whatever the reason, your hiatus can leave you feeling a bit demotivated and out of touch with the work world. Shaking the dust off that person that was once an integral part of the workforce can be difficult. But it is essential for your reentry into the workforce. Networking can connect you to others in the same situation, and that is a huge morale booster. You realize you are not alone in your challenges. There are others facing the same struggles, and this can help you push through the insecurities to move forward. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone into an unfamiliar situation with new faces is the best way to build confidence and figure out where you might be able to fit back in to the workforce.
Hidden opportunities: The adage of “It’s not what you know, but who you know” rings true here. You never know who you will meet at a networking event. Perhaps a future employer? Or maybe somebody who can introduce you to one? You could hear about an opening in someone’s team that is a fit for your experience, or of someone who is moving on to another opportunity leaving their job open. Only the process of getting out there and speaking to people can reveal such opportunities. So be ready to network, anytime anywhere; and don’t be afraid to ask. You never know who might be listening.
Learn from other’s experiences: Asking people about their big wins and mistakes can help prepare you for your own career journey. It adds new layers to your knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be shy to ask people to share personal experiences from their careers. You would be surprised at how willing people are to talk about themselves. Bouncing ideas off people you meet helps widen your perspective and can shape your own approach to job searching.
Your takeaway? Networking is a must. You need to be actively engaged in reaching out to and meeting people. You only stand to benefit from this endeavor.
Did you know that Women Back to Work is a strong proponent for networking? Contact us to learn more about future events.