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Make your networking goals for a new year

December 21, 2018

One of the keys to moving your job search forward is recognizing the importance of connections with people throughout your career. Seniors who want to switch career paths or change jobs to match a new stage in life tend to remember those who have helped them grow. Most will acknowledge that without having people connections their career might have taken a different direction.

Seniors grew their careers when dedication was the cornerstone of building lasting relationships with employers, the desire to give a 110 percent commitment to a job well done along with a host of other great attributes.

The mindset of commitment and desiring to contribute is more important than ever, butthe one aspect that helps open doors to career possibilities is how well you are devoted to the health of your career.

Being committed to your career, in turn, helps you as well as your employer because you start viewing work relationships as having an impact on present and future opportunities.

The term “networking” always brings up a mixed bag of perceptions, some recalling awkward experiences, while others praise the power of relationships. Yet most of the pessimistic feelings with networking are the direct result of underdeveloped skills in interacting with others.

When a director experienced an unexpected job loss, he described a panic-like reaction that came over him when networking was mentioned. His view toward reaching out to others was overshadowed by a mindset that others would not be able to help him. He is not alone in his thinking; the main reason why seniors often sigh when it’s time to network is a “need to” attitude when faced with a change rather than viewing relationships as meaningful.

After a couple of weeks with coming to grips that networking is the best way to uncover hidden job opportunities, he decided to reach out to a few colleagues from the past. To his surprise, not only did his colleagues enjoy catching up, they offered him names of people they knew which eventually led to a job interview.

Here’s the catch. Commitment to your job is as important as your dedication to taking care of your career. Networking needs to be a part of your professional mindset that happens all year throughout your career.

If you struggle to come up with a handful of people you know, it’s an indication that you are stuck in a traditional mindset that loyalty alone equals job security without the need for building relationships.

The good news is that you can change your mindset about networking, regardless of age, even though it may feel uncomfortable that after years of working you need to build relationships, but it happens all the time. It’s a great career lesson to understand and appreciate the value of seeing possibilities by connecting with others.

A great way to test how healthy your networking habits are is to name 10 people who could help you right now if you needed to start an active job search. If you struggle to name 10, then it’s a good sign your networking needs a makeover.

Avoid making networking complicated and start where you are. Good networking occurs most of the time on an informal basis because you’re relaxed and are not focused on meeting as many people as possible. When you are authentic with your questions and interests, a genuine exchange of information takes place where job possibilities tend to surface.

Technology is wonderful and helps with gathering information for a career change. However, creating a LinkedIn profile without using it is another form of passive networking — waiting until you need to. Building relationships takes effort, but using a multi-channel approach helps you can stay in touch with people while meeting new ones at the same time.

Don’t be discouraged by perceived obstacles such as not building relationships, losing a job or longing for a new career direction.

All of these can seem to be uphill climbs. Seeing them as launching pads to better opportunities begins when you start reaching out and brainstorming with people.

Kimberly Thompson is a board-certified counselor. Send questions to kim@careerrescue.com or Houston Chronicle, P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210. Visit her blog at www.blogs.chron.com/careerrescue.

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