When you are on a career break, and plan to return to employment or start a business, networking is important. What’s great about networking on a career break, is that you can network without a specific agenda or objective in mind. Well, that’s not quite true is it. First let’s explore why it’s important to network when you are on a career break. And then I’ll share with you my 10 top tips based on years of first-hand experience and the experience of the women I have worked with.
Reasons to network on a career break
The reasons for networking when you are in employment are just as important when you are on a career break.
- continue to build and raise your profile
- keep in touch with trends in your sector
- build and nurture relationships
- discover fresh ideas and inspiration
- identify potential future employers
However it’s not easy to network with a young baby or toddler in tow. So how do you network effectively when you are a career break or on maternity leave.
10 top tips to network effectively on a career break
Remember that networking doesn’t just have to be about the big in-person events. There are other ways to network effectively. For example you can network online (on Facebook, on Twitter or on LinkedIn). If you prefer smaller groups, it is perfectly feasible and very effective to network with one or two people at a time over coffee or lunch. Whatever you do, don’t leave networking until you NEED to. By then it’s often too late. Networking can be small scale, not time-consuming and certainly doesn’t need to be from day 1 of your career break or maternity leave.
Here are my top tips to network effectively when you are on a career break or on maternity leave.
- Polish your LinkedIn profile and make sure it’s up-to-date. Not on LinkedIn? You’ll want to know about my free 15 Day Back to Work Essentials challenge.
- Join the relevant industry or role LinkedIn groups. Comment on discussions, ask interesting questions that give others an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, get involved, share posts, comment on posts, post useful articles that you’ve seen.
- If you know you’re planning to go back to work in say 1 or 2 years, you only need a few minutes, maybe 15-20 minutes a week, to network online. If you’re planning to start jobhunting in 3 to 6 months, I’d encourage you to take 10-15 minutes every day.
- Is there a Facebook group for your industry or your role? Or a group for mums in your area. If you are planning to start a business in the future, there are some fabulously supportive Facebook groups for mums in business. One of my personal favourites is The Business of Mums. This group is small and friendly with mums running all types of business from copywriting to yoga teaching, from freelance photography to IT consultant. Or if you are going back to a career, join my group The Confident Mother. Follow the discussions and reply to posts where appropriate. Be helpful, be friendly. People will remember you for that.
- If you are on maternity leave, make the most of your KIT days to network within your company and externally too perhaps over a lunch or drinks after work, if you have childcare sorted.
- Don’t wait until you NEED to network – by then it’s too late.
- Check out what meetups might be happening in your local area – does your NCT branch offer Mums Night Out events (you don’t usually need to be a member). Have you attended a Women’s Institute meeting? What groups spark your interest on Meetup. What about hobbies or interests? Is there a local group that meets? What events are available on Eventbrite?
- Is there a local evening or daytime class you could attend? Check out Floodlight for inspiration – every course you can possibly imagine: from interior design to family history, from film studies to counselling, from colour psychology to flamenco.
- Attend industry events or conferences. Network in advance and find out who else is attending the event – is there a LinkedIn group? an online delegate list? Twitter hashtag? Chat to people online to establish a relationship in advance.
- If you see an article that might be of interest or use to somebody that you have met online through your networking activities or in person, pass it on. It never hurts to be helpful. I firmly believe that what goes around, comes around.
Yes you can network effectively AND with confidence when you are on a career break or maternity leave. Yes you are more likely to hear about potential job openings if you have nurtured the relationships. Yes if you are thinking about starting a business, networking makes good sense.
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