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Guest post: Networking tips for changing careers

So I’ve been either lazy or extremely busy with my new role at Cospace.co. Let’s go with the latter. Thankfully smart people like Steven Burrell have offered to provide guest posts. This post is one that is near and dear to my heart as a recent career changer.

Deciding to embark on an entirely new career can be incredibly daunting. You might be switching careers by choice or because of circumstances outside of your control, but no matter what the reason you are making this big life change, it is indeed just that: a big life change. And of course, that can be scary. Maybe some of your skills from your prior career will transfer into your new one, or maybe not. Maybe you already know people in your new field, or maybe not. Maybe you are returning to an earlier career, or perhaps this is an entirely new path. Either way, the key to your next career is the same as the key to your last one: networking.

Networking is one of the most important tools at your disposal for finding your next position, and sometimes for finding one several years down the road. It is often overlooked these days, as job hunters send out resume after resume to jobs posted online. But many jobs, some of the best in fact, are never posted online. They are the ones that only people “in the know” know about. The only way to find them is through networking.

Networking can also be a great tool to get the jobs you find posted online. If you see a job you think you would be a good fit for posted by Company Y, and you just networked with someone from Company Y, you now have a leg up over other online applicants. Whatever your approach to the job search, networking should be a part of it. Here are some tips on networking for changing careers.

Join LinkedIn and add as many contacts as you can. LinkedIn has totally changed networking, because it makes it as easy as clicking a few buttons. Create an up-to-date profile, highlighting your skills – especially the ones that are transferable to your new career. Import your email contacts and start adding as many of the names that you automatically recognize to your LinkedIn contacts. Add personal messages where appropriate. Continue adding people you know – family members, friends, former colleagues. You never know where might establish a helpful connection!

Start participating in “extra-curricular” activities outside your professional sphere. Networking is all about meeting new people with common interests. Don’t limit this principle to industry professionals. Increasing your social circles to include more people will help you make new friends and professional contacts. And if you are pursuing interests you enjoy, you will not begrudge the time you spend doing this, even if it doesn’t automatically give you job leads.

Contact old friends and colleagues and make plans. The best networking is done face to face, not over the phone or the computer. And the best results come from real relationships, not forced ones. So get in touch with people you have lost touch with over the years and get together for coffee or lunch. By spending time with people you actually like, you will avoid that forced feeling that can come with networking.

Market yourself in terms of the job you want, not the job you had. How you define yourself will shape how others see you. If you are a lawyer-turned-writer and call yourself that, that is how people will know you. If you just say “writer” though, they will know you that way instead. It is up to you to identify yourself correctly – on LinkedIn, on your business cards, and in conversation. Just like you don’t dress for the job you have, you dress for the job you want, you also should define yourself for the job you want.

Find local networking events of interest to you. A lot of networking events go on in big and small cities alike, and all you need to do is find them. Keep an eye out in local papers, do some Google searching, and allow yourself to step outside your immediate comfort zone by showing up alone. Be sure to bring your new business cards!

About the Author: Steven Burrell has been writing about business solutions and employee evaluation for nearly a decade. Visit the website to learn more about Steven’s work.

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