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Networking to Return to the Workforce

Networking to Return to the Workforce

If you’re an older adult, there are many reasons why you return to the workforce. Regardless of whether you have been away from the workforce for 30 days or 30 years, you will find employment if you are willing to network. Rest assured that businesses need your skills and talents because of the value you possess. Michael Dutcher, assistant director of Campus Engagement for KSU’s Department of Career Planning and Development, will highlight strategies on updating your professional content and connecting with strong and weak network connections.

Now is the time to update the content that represents the “professional you.” Answer these questions first:

  • Who is you target audience?
  • Is the current professional you represented on your content?
  • What skills are listed within your content and how are you giving yourself credit?
Michael Dutcher

Michael Dutcher

Keep in mind that resumes and profiles are not applications but marketing pieces that highlight what we want the employer to pay attention. As you update content, think of your reader as they have to give you credit for your abilities based on the content you share. Paint them a clear picture of the skills you have and your capacity to use them by incorporating numbers that show them how much, how many, and how often. You will only need to focus on the last 10 years for experience on your resume. On your LinkedIn profile, you have the flexibility to highlight the last 20.

Updating our professional content is just the start. For older workers, your advantage centers on the networks you’ve established. If you only submit cold applications to employers, you are typically 6 to 8 months away from employers finding you. Those that engage their networks on top of applying for opportunities speed the process up.

Networking has many definitions and for the job search process it centers on establishing relationships with professional in your fields of interest for the purpose of making connections and sharing information for professional development. Networking works best when a relationship is built on relevant engagement.

Thanks to the numerous tools within the world of social media, job seekers are able to research companies and make connections at the click of a button. Through platforms like LinkedIn, users are able to send networking targets tailored invitations to connect. It is recommended that all professionals create a LinkedIn profile to make connections with the intention to conduct informational interviews with professionals in their field of interest. Informational interviews are an important tool for your professional development where you are able to gain insights from industry professionals by asking questions on best practices, career strategies, and company culture. 

Through informational interviews, professionals have the opportunity to translate their background and expertise to a fellow professional when there isn’t a job on the line. This process of conducting informational interviews allows for two things to happen: 1) Gaining useful insights to apply to your job search and 2)  getting engaged in the job search process outside of submitting applications.

In your invitations to connect, it is acceptable to reach out via LinkedIn and email with professionals that are not a part of your strong network. For example, search “College of Continuing and Professional Education at KSU” on LinkedIn. Click on the institution and the blue “See Alumni” button. From there, you can see 700+ alumni that are also on LinkedIn that you can connect with.

Here’s a sample invitation for connecting with those alumni:

“Mr. Dutcher, As an alum from CCPE, I’m conducting informational interviews with alumni in your industry as I explore different companies and transition in my career. I’d love to connect with you and send you a few questions about why you like your job and share best practices. – [your name here]”

For those that connect back with you ask them a few of the follow questions:

  • How did you get started in this field?
  • What is the most/least rewarding aspect of your job?
  • Would you choose this career again?
  • What advice do you have for a person attempting to break into this career field?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • What is the most common career path?
  • What are some lifestyle considerations for this career field?
  • What are some common entry-level positions in the field of _____?
  • What type of individual (skills/personality) would be best suited for your company?
  • How would you describe the company’s culture?

At the end of the day, networking serves the purpose of expanding the number of professionals who know that you are in the job market so that when an opportunity comes across their desk they are able to pass it on to you. If you are able to gain other’s buy-in into your abilities, they will go to bat for you in your job search and help translate the wealth of experience and education that you bring the table.

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