by Neil Harris
If you're told that your job will be declared redundant or suspect that this is likely to happen, take positive action. Don't be driven into negative thoughts. Gerald in ‘The Full Monty' didn't tell anyone, not even his wife that he was unemployed and pretended to go out to work every day. That is not a role model for success. The negatives of any situation only delay your progress and must be overcome so that you can move forward.
Inform your network
Networking is a very powerful tool when you are seeking a job. Use your network, whether you seek an opportunity in the career you have been in or a change to something completely different. The best aspect of being redundant is that you can consider every possible option and think of doing something new, which may feel more worthwhile than your previous occupation.
Your best plan is to tell everyone you know about your search for employment because any one of them could give you some leads. The more people you tell the more likely it is that something positive will come back from your network.
Update your contacts
The first step is to think hard about your contacts. We all know at least 250 people (statistically speaking) and those people we know have more than 60,000 contacts. Any of these could be valuable in your new job search. If you want to stay in the same profession, start with your work contacts. First consider your colleagues and ex-colleagues. Do they have contacts that might need to employ someone with your skills and experience? Have your ex-colleagues moved on to work for other organisations, and if so are those employers recruiting?
Next, list your work contacts - people in other departments, customers, suppliers, and people you know in similar roles in other organisations. Experienced networkers keep continually updated contact details for everyone they come across, often on a database, address book or mobile phone. They keep business cards including notes on the person they met and where it was. It's always wise to keep copies in case the technology lets you down. If you're starting from scratch some research may be necessary to get you going, starting with your closest associates and gradually branching out.
Uncover your network
First identify your network which includes:
- Family and the people they know
- Friends and their friends
- Colleagues and ex-colleagues
- People you met through professional bodies, seminars, conferences, exhibitions or any other event
- Those you know through any societies, clubs, and religious organisations, sports
- Commercial contacts - people you buy from or sell to
- Anyone you met on holiday
- Those you habitually send cards to
- Self employed people who may show you how to be entrepreneurial and start a small business
Seek information and advice
Use your network to gather information. Don't make any value judgements on who can help and who cannot. Valuable nuggets can come from the most unlikely places. For example, a solicitor recently got a job through her hairdresser's boyfriend, who happened to work for a firm of solicitors that were increasing their staff. Another, who was a university administrator, met an employee of another university at a friend's party, learned of an upcoming vacancy and eventually got the job.
When you discover that someone may be able to help, phone them for advice, or contact them first by e-mail or letter depending on which method is suitable. Extraverts usually prefer a direct verbal approach while introverts prefer initially to make a written introduction.
When making a call it's important first to think what you want to achieve from it. Don't expect too much from your first contact. What information might they have which could be of value? Who could they introduce you to who could possibly help? It is wise to only ask your contact for things that you know they can deliver while making it clear that your eventual goal is to gain suitable employment. If your request is not deliverable, such as an immediate request for a job, it will inevitably put the recipient on the back foot. This might close down other options such as putting you in touch with a promising contact of theirs.
Don't specifically seek a job from a contact.
Before important calls write down a possible agenda and consider how you will introduce yourself. Your introduction will depend on the context of the relationships involved. If it's someone new your introduction will mention who suggested you call, and possibly something about your relationship to the mutual contact. Always be sensitive to the possibility that the timing of your communication is inconvenient and give the person the option that you could phone later at a more suitable time for them.
You might ask how they got into their job, what it involves, where the organisation advertises its vacancies. If vacancies are not advertised publicly, ask how you can discover them. In some circumstances it may be possible to arrange a meeting. In others you could discover the names of other contacts. If, for example, you are an academic, ask about the people who are active in your field. You will know about relevant publications and departments in other universities but probably not about up and coming staff who are less in the limelight or new research grants that they have recently gained.
If you're breaking into a new sphere your plan should be to find at least one contact who is employed in that area and get them to introduce you to others that they are associated with. Keep asking questions, seeking information and advice and eventually details of job vacancies will emerge.
Be aware of the etiquette of networking. If your contact makes a request of you be sure to deliver. Relationships are a two way street so a situation where you both win is ideal. Always thank people for giving their time and information. An e-mail or letter to follow up your discussion will suffice. Avoid becoming a pest by bombarding any one person with calls.
The path to success
Some believe that to network is pushy, unacceptable behaviour. Yet we all network every day when we seek advice from friends about going to the latest film, buying an expensive item or taking a holiday where they once went. Why not do the same with your job search? You have nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is that someone won't help. The best is a new job and better relationships with more people in your network.