A few weeks ago, I did a presentation on “Networking for Career Advancement” for the Women of ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting) at a hotel in Manhattan. The well-planned event was a success in terms of attendance and high-level networking, since there were employees from almost every major accounting and financial firm, as well as insurance companies and banks.
Unfortunately, a few days later, several people wrote to tell me that they had lost their jobs and that they were applying the strategies that I had shared during my presentation to continue extending their network of contacts.
The advantage of this group of individuals is that they already had the habit of participating in events and joining professional associations before they began looking for work and hopefully, they will be able to reinsert themselves in the job market quickly. The situation is more difficult for those who start building their network when they find themselves without a job. If this is your case, here you will find some suggestions to put into practice right away.
If you are not affiliated with a professional organization within your area of expertise, it is time to join one.
At the same time, continue looking into other great professional associations to get to know people working in different areas and at different levels at key companies. Some of these include ALPFA, NSHMBA (National Society of Hispanic MBA), Catalyst, National Hispana Leadership Institute, SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), etc. To join most of these groups, you don’t need to have a specific degree. For example, to join NSHMBA, you don’t need to be Hispanic or have an MBA. You may also want to consider joining a group such as Hispanic Professionals Networking Group (HPNG) which offers high profile events with guest speakers and career development workshops where you can meet and network with other professionals. After you join the associations, participate in their conferences and events.
Attend events and conferences organized by Hispanic or Women Employee Support Groups at the companies you are interested in.
Many of these events are open to those who are not company employees. You just need to be invited and placed on the guest list. For example, the groups of Latino employees at American Express (AHORA) and JPMorgan (ADELANTE) are great places to start.
Offer to volunteer at organizations whose missions you can relate to, where you will be able to meet people who can help you advance your career.
For example, Junior Achievement Worldwide (www.ja.org) seeks volunteers to teach its courses on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and on the connection with the job market to students from kindergarten through 12th grade. They offer a two-hour training session, a kit with materials, lots of support and they will work around your schedule. The organization has agreements with a great number of companies that sponsor the courses or provide volunteers. Depending on your level of involvement they may be able to connect you with these sponsoring companies. (In any case, volunteering within your industry will be good for your resume while you find your new position!)
Try to achieve higher visibility by giving presentations in your areas of expertise.
Start with small groups –students or your neighbors– and then take your message to community events such as the meetings of the local chamber of commerce. Soon you will be ready to present at professional conferences. The more people you meet, the easier it will be for you to get in touch with people who can recruit you.
Remember, networking is a life style; it is something you should do naturally, like making new friends. It is not something you should only think of when you don’t have a job. It is, in fact, one of the best ways to protect yourself against unemployment.
If you want more ideas on this, you can visit my blog where I often discuss networking. www.marielablog.com