TORONTO — Optimism is building as the COVID-19 curve begins to flatten and provinces outline their plans to re-open the economy. However, the reality is unemployment is at unprecedented levels and as jobs get posted companies will be flooded with resumes.
If you are out of work, updating your resume is a priority but a greater focus should be on building your network. In fact, if you want to stand out of from the crowd your network is almost always more important than your resume.
This isn’t just about networking for the sake of networking. It is about strategic networking and here are a few steps to start building your network.
1) You need to take the time to figure out what you excel at and be razor sharp on your personal strengths and passions. For example, I love personal finance but I will never be a company financial analyst. I reflected over a number of days on what I love and it became obvious to me that I love to help people become financially secure. Every time someone would ask me a financial question and I was able to help in the concrete way I felt like it was a win/win. I knew I had a strength here driven by my curiosity around why people spend, how they save and all the emotions surrounding a money decision. It has become a passion.
2) Network in the field of your expertise or where you have your credentials. You may love retail and dealing with customers but you could take that same strength and apply it to hospitality. The goal is to get a job and keep a job. If you get up every morning and hate what you do it will never work out in the long run.
3) It is impossible to build a network if you rely only on yourself. As soon as you lose your job, activate the network you have.
- Ask every person you meet to reach out to you if they hear of a job
- Ask for referrals or even ask for personal introductions
- Stay in touch with your network by thanking them and offering ways to reciprocate if you can
4) Everything you are doing right now is about getting the interview. In today’s environment you might not get the job you hoped for, the hours you would have liked or theimmediate supervisor may even have less experience than you. Now is not the time to be choosy or look for perfection. It is the time to get your foot in the door of an organization you would like to work for.
5) Networking can take on different forms — volunteering at a local charity, giving of your self, reconnecting with former colleagues or alumni to name a few. Make it personal and sincere. I know because I have asthma and can’t be out in the public but still want to connect and help during this crisis so I decided to reach out to people via my Instagram @Pattie_Lovett-Reid and answer their personal finance questions directly. I also have virtual chats via Zoom with industry colleagues and refer people for introductions via my LinkedIn account. It is so easy to do if you are doing it for the right reasons.
Attitude matters. Be positive. Networking over coffee may have worked in the past but more and more a virtual coffee over video conferencing may be the choice going forward. Be sure to test the link, look professional, ask a lot of questions, be engaging and check out the shot – your background could define you in a way you may or may not want to be defined. In other words, if it is messy and you want to come off as someone who is organized – time to clean it up.
Bottom line: When a lot of people are out of work resumes are the way into the job market but your network is your differentiator that will help you win.