Mix It Up to stay fresh during your job search

October 18, 2009

Social Groups and Volunteer Activities CAN lead to a job

Looking for a job, especially if you are under the added stress of being unemployed, is hard work.  The process takes an emotional and mental toll on you for a number of reasons; 1) you are personally connected to your search, 2) the search process itself is unfamiliar territory, 3) you have to be “on your game” much of the time and that’s just plain exhausting, and 4) it’s a tedious activity to research, apply and follow up on positions you are interested in.
The time and effort you put into your search will directly impact the length of your search.  For those who unemployed, the good news is you have more time to dedicate to landing your next great position.  But, looking for a job doesn’t mean sitting in front of your computer 40 hours a week. Additionally, it doesn’t mean your search ends at 5:00 PM.   Some of your best effort will be made outside your house and in the evenings.  Realistically, the people you want to meet and need to connect with are working.  That means they do their networking and social activities after business hours – and that’s where you need to be. 
You’ve already let your family, friends and professional network know you are looking for a job.  Now it’s time to expand your reach and gain access to an extended network.  Online Social Networking can help with this, but that’s not enough.  You need to get out there, meet new people who are gainfully employed and not already in your ‘circle’.  Let’s look at some options:
·         Professional groups are a good place to start – be seen where hiring managers hang out.  This means attend activities that are one level above where you are as a professional.  Here’s how I decide whether or not to attend an event;  if the content is interesting to me then I will likely meet people with whom I have a common interest.  There are too many options – and it can get pretty expensive – so filtering is a good idea.
·         Social groups are a great way to meet new people.  Recreational sports, book clubs, biking, running, hiking, dog walking (you name it) are all great ways to meet new people who have networks that you don’t have access to.  Check out www.meetup.com for hundreds of groups and activities to choose from.
·         Volunteering with non-profits is a natural way to meet new people.  Let’s face it, if you aren’t working you have some time to give as a volunteer and you’ll feel better for doing it.  There are so many organizations needing help that finding a way to contribute is pretty easy.  Maybe you have an organization that you’ve supported with money in the past and now, without a job that’s not realistic – give them a call and find out how you can give your time instead.  Try matching your volunteer work with your interests.  You’re more likely to meet people you will ‘connect’ with and –  who knows what might happen?  If you need help finding an organization you can register at www.volunteermatch.org. There are hundreds of opportunities listed by location, time commitment and interest.
This kind of extended network building takes a different approach however.  You won’t be wearing a badge that says ‘I’m looking for a job’; the process will be more indirect.  Here are some guidelines:
·         Plan on 1-2 evenings per week out at events or activities.
·         Get business cards printed and carry them with you EVERYWHERE
·         Prepare an interesting introduction – short and impactful – be creative!
·         Be friendly, introduce yourself to everyone you can and ask them about themselves (what brings you here, how are you connected to this organization, is this your first time too?).  People LOVE to talk about themselves.
·         DO NOT get into a discussion about your job search – exchange business cards and follow up later – solicitation during an event is rude.
·         Dress conservatively; you are making an impression on everyone you meet – make sure it’s a positive impression
·         Don’t skip out early – stay engaged in the program or activity until the end – often, the best networking happens at the close of a program – and you have some new material to talk about!
In addition to helping you extend your network beyond current friends and family, extracurricular activities will help you break the monotony of the day, help reduce your stress level and give you a ‘purpose’ which is often missing when people identify their value with their profession.  Get out there – Mix It Up –extend your reach to help your personal and professional success.  For more ideas on career development and getting hired take a look at our career portal at www.mygoldstonepartners.com.       
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