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Networking 2.0: Midlife Career Change For the 21st Century

Mar 1, 2008
When "career counselor" was a new word (and a "coach" blew the whistle at basketball practice), we all read the Parachute book. The standard career advice line went something like this:

"People are bored. They love to talk about what they do. So call them up and ask for information. Eventually someone will offer you a job."

In my experience, that advice is as outdated as the typewriters we used back when the first Parachute edition appeared in the bookstores.

Today networking matters more than ever before. But you have to work your way into everyone's outrageously busy schedule.

(1) Create a professional presence on the Internet, using Facebook, Myspace, and/or LinkedIn. Zoodango has become popular among corporate executives.

You can be outgoing and personal but share only what your next uptight business contact needs to know...unless you refuse to ever work with the uptight set, which is another article.

It's no accident that my "personal" public persona showcases my dog, with occasional glimpses of the cats. I've seen too many innocent disclosures get distorted... anyone following the Amanda Knox case?

(2) Attend professional meetings and conferences.

In some fields, you'll make awesome contacts. In others, you'll just get information about what's really happening, outside your own office.

And when you need to make calls, you may be able to say, "I'd like to use your name when I call your associate at MegaBig company..."

Or, "Do you know anyone who worked at SoNew Company? I'd like to get more info before applying..."

(3) Go back to school the grown-up executive way.

If appropriate, consider teaching courses at local universities and learning centers. Choose topics that enhance your most marketable strengths.

You won't get rich from the stipends but you get exposure and credibility. You'll often make some helpful contacts and gain new perspectives on the field.

Or consider the other side of the desk.

If you have funds and opportunity, a graduate degree can open doors - not just from the degree, but also from contacts you make. Programs offering face-to-face meetings on weekends or evenings tend to be most effective - and I have met people who got jobs through fellow students.

(4) Attend networking events designed for business owners (even if you love the corporate world and plan to stay forever).

You never know. Remember the Mary Poppins line: "I'll stay till the wind changes." I've met many savvy business people who encountered a tornado in their own offices.

When that happens, especially if you're over 50, you may see income faster from self-employment than from sending out resumes. I wouldn't stop job-hunting but hey, why not explore this path too?

Being around business owners will give you a boost: "If they can, I can." And if you think like an entrepreneur, you may find corporate life a little easier to take (and more rewarding, too).

Just about everyone who attends those meetings has corporate contacts...and they're very comfortable making referrals and introductions. That's how they grow their own businesses.

(5) Talk to everybody.

One of my acquaintances found herself sitting next to some corporate executives at a basketball game. Turns out they were using tickets from a corporate sponsor...and that company often had openings in her field. That particular contact didn't lead to a job, but she did gain some ideas that she used to make a quantum career leap.

University alumni groups tend to be especially friendly and open. It's an easy place to say, "I'm looking for a job in X industry. Do you know..."

Bottom Line: We're not calling strangers anymore to ask for "advice." Everybody knows what you're really after...and if they don't, they're too clueless to help. But we have newer, more user-friendly and more effective ways to build a network (before we *need* one).
About the Author
Ready to win the First Inning of Your Second Career? Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., has answers. Access your FREE Download: Why Most Career Change Fails (and Yours Doesn't Have To).
Midlife Career Strategy
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