careersolvers

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ten Ways to Boost Your Network When You’ve Put Your Work Life on Hold (Part One)

After a child is born, many women make the decision to stop working to become full-time mothers. Playdates take the place of meetings and anxiety about an upcoming presentation is replaced with concern over a stuffy nose. While many moms know they will return to work at some point, few create and organize a plan for re-entry. When they decide to return, many women experience difficulty negotiating a salary consistent with their level of expertise or accounting for their achievements during their career hiatus.

With a little bit of planning, research, and creativity along with a systematic approach to networking, you can continue to maintain your professional persona while being a full-time mom. Your transition back to the world of work will become a more rewarding and less stressful experience.

Networking is the cornerstone of a successful job search campaign. It is an on-going process of building and maintaining relationships with people who have expertise you want and need and reciprocating their help with information that is useful to them. As a mom, you are always networking. Mothers swap advice with other moms about schools, babysitters, pediatricians, baby products, etc. We want to buy our products and services from establishments that are recommended by people we trust.

Job seekers share information in a similar way. They approach their contacts for information about a particular industry or company, discuss their skills and business accomplishments and prove how they can add value to an organization. Relationships are built on reciprocity and trust. By solidifying these ties, job seekers gain the opportunity to request introductions into their contacts’ inner circles. Each new contact can lead them closer to a new business opportunity. But, it is crucial they never ask a contact to get them a job. This would create stress in the relationship, by implying an unrealistic expectation. However, asking for information is reasonable, even flattering.

Below are some tips for expanding your network and staying connected to your business community during your child care years. Start networking for business opportunities now so you’ll have more viable options when you are ready to return to work.

The Playground

It’s often said that more deals are concluded on golf courses than at the office. A close second to the golf course may very well be the playground. The same principles of networking and camaraderie work with a small child in tow. It’s easy to strike up a conversation at the swings or the sandbox. Bring some toys that work best in groups like jump ropes, balls and bubble fluid and you’re bound to have a captive audience of kids and adults in no time. If many of the children in your neighborhood are with caregivers during the week, it still makes sense to build these relationships. Chances are that the nanny’s current employer or their friend’s employers are people that are connected to others that you might like to know.

Group Classes/Sports Teams

By the time your children are three years old, many classes are “drop off” and parents are asked to wait outside the class area. Use that hour to network with the parents in the class. Try to schedule at least one class on the weekend to maximize the opportunity to communicate with a parent directly. As your kids get older, consider becoming the team parent for your child’s sports teams. This enables you to have ongoing contact with the parents of the team members and positions you as an effective organizer or leader.

Playgroups

Build a core group of moms (and dads) and establish a weekly playdate. You will make special, long lasting bonds with the parents and establish a support system for a future job search.

School/Community

When you volunteer for a position in your child’s school or your local community you are broadening your range of contacts since members of these groups represent multiple professional backgrounds. You are afforded the chance to network with people that you might not meet at work or through a professional organization. Volunteering in your school/community allows you to:

  • Position yourself as an insider or expert in a particular area
  • Gain access to other members of the community that may be useful professional contacts in the future
  • Develop new marketable skills that you can apply to your future job search

When you volunteer, chose a leadership role, such as chair person for an event or member of the school’s executive board. These types of opportunities provide you with much greater visibility and decision-making power than you would receive if you just offer to bake cupcakes for the school picnic.

E-groups

Consider setting up an e-group with the people you worked with and wish to maintain a future relationship. This will enable you to keep up with the corporate culture and gossip and will position you well should you decide to return to a previous employer in the future.

Tune in tomorrow for 5 more ways to grow your network.


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