Do either of the following scenarios sound familiar?
You started out in education, but gradually moved into the marketing industry where you've worked for the past 15 years. At this point in your career you want to return to education and have your eye on working for your alma mater. But the challenge is: though you still have friends and former colleagues back at the university, you feel awkward calling on any of them so many years later to help get you in the door for the new dean position you saw listed.
Ten years ago, you were a road warrior rock star consultant, logging miles and impressing clients. Your little guy just celebrated his 9th birthday, and you're ready to get back in the game. But it's been Gymboree, PTA meetings and soccer matches for the past decade. How will you get the inside word on the new division you just read about?
Stale networks happen when people stay employed in one industry and haven't been in touch with contacts from their prior industry. They also happen when people step away from their industry for a while, and are looking for meaningful re-entry. Though it may seem so, their networks haven't vanished; they simply need to be carefully cultivated back to life. The three steps below detail how it's done.
STEP ONE: Re-engage
If you're in the same boat as the marketer or parent returning to work, how do you start reaching out? Start by simply showing up on your former colleagues' social media feeds. LinkedIn is your most useful tool in this scenario. First, you want to update your LinkedIn profile (and, if you don't have one, shame on you, you need to create one). Click here for simple tips on building your LinkedIn profile. If some of your former colleagues are already in your LinkedIn network, provided you have your settings set to publish your profile edits, any updates made to your profile will show up in your network's newsfeed. You should then look up some of the specific people you want to contact and use the endorsements function to give them an endorsement. Again, at this point, you want to slowly get back into the game. These simple head nods are too easy not to use to your advantage
A LinkedIn endorsement is a tool for contacts to recognize each other's skills. It pops up at the top of a contact's profile page, and asks you to validate that 'Stellan knows Social Media,' 'Marquez knows IT' or 'Maureen knows Nursing. ' In this case, you want to recognize the skills of your target contacts, thereby putting you on their radar since LinkedIn sends a notice to endorsement recipients. So, with one click, you're in their inbox, courtesy of LinkedIn.
If you are new to LinkedIn and are just uploading a profile, adding former colleagues will also be a means of getting back in touch. You can do full name searches within the LinkedIn Directory, and send a quick note requesting the connection. It might also be useful to ask your first degree contacts to reach out to those second and third connects on your behalf.
STEP TWO: Rebuild Trust
Now that you're back in touch, the next step is rebuilding trust. You wouldn't ask a favor of someone five minutes after meeting them. Similarly here, since it's been a while since you last interacted as colleagues, the trust you once shared may have weakened a bit. So your next step is to show that you're seeking to develop a mutually-beneficial connection and to figure out how to bring value before making a request. Value could be in the form of sharing a useful article, or offering to make an introduction of your own, but your focus should be on your contact and establishing his or her trust. Invite them out to coffee and see how you can help each other. For tips on networking with purpose, click here.
...last but not least,
STEP THREE: Create a Brand Ambassador
By this point, you've re-engaged with your network and have begun to rebuild trust with your contacts. As your newly-cultivated network strengthens, you can turn them into your brand ambassadors. A brand ambassador is someone you can count on to put your resume at the top of the resume stack on a decision-maker's desk. This is a key factor to getting a leg up in the job search since a large portion of job openings are not posted. However, in order for your ambassador to be most helpful to you they have to be well-equipped by you. And how do I equip them, you ask? Simple: By making it easy to share your details with decision-makers. You write up a quick introductory bio, prepare an updated resume and send it all to your ambassador in an email. Then when your ambassador mentions you to the Senior Vice President of your dream hedge fund, and is told, "send me your friend's resume," it only takes a click of a button to put you at the top of the stack. (For tips on how to be the candidate they think of, click here)
So that's your toolkit for freshening up a stale network:
Re-engage: Use networking tools to get back in touch
Rebuild Trust: Share helpful information to rebuild trust
Create a Brand Ambassador: Cultivate a connection that can benefit your search
Want your old friends to join your job search S.W.A.T. team? Click here for actual networking scripts that have worked for hundreds of job seekers.