On the Job

After Time Away, Put Networking Skills to Work

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By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, May 8, 2008; 3:43 PM

Getting back into work life can be difficult, never mind how many credentials you can proudly put on a resume. And everyone has her own particular set of circumstances to contend with. But there are some steps you can take in your job search to end up where you want to, with a job.

I am a professional, bilingual, with an MBA and background in economics, but with not many years of real experience (about 5) working for a foreign government. I have been home for the last 3 1/2 years and now I am looking to re-start my career in international development. International organizations are a joke, and without networking it is impossible to get my foot in the door. So I am looking in the private sector for consulting firms and non-profits. I will consider an entry-level position with good benefits and a decent salary, but I need flexibility with my schedule. How do you advise me with finding the right job (or even an interview) without scaring the recruiter with my resume?

Jim Gray, president of his own consulting firm in Charleston, S.C., says what this applicant ¿ and any job seeker for that matter -- should not do is "just walk into an office and say hello."

Rather, he says, applicants who have been absent from the work environment for awhile need to make new contacts and renew any old ones that might be helpful.

"This worker ought to invite herself to trade meetings, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary, whatever it might be," he advises. "Find out who the players are, what places they are frequently seen at."

And then, he says, "have the confidence to be a little bit gregarious to meet people, to look at people in their environment eyeball to eyeball.

"Take your business cards with you, get theirs and then follow up" a few days later, he says.

"It's a little bit of an investment to become part of a network," he acknowledges. "But it's totally impersonal to just send a resume." By being at an event, "she's really had the first stage of an interview. It's planting seeds. You're exercising your relating skills.

"Once she gets her name out there," he says, "it's really amazing how names get passed around. She may go to three or four meetings and not get anything, but I guarantee that within three to six months she'll have a job."

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.


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