The current economic climate is having a significant impact on women. The industries hardest hit by furloughs and layoffs – hospitality & tourism, education, and service jobs, were staffed predominately by women. Many of whom are working moms, supporting multi-generational family members while balancing work and motherhood. For all of us, navigating this challenging economic landscape will take courage. The great news is we can use networking as a tool to empower ourselves and others, creating new channels to access employment opportunities.
As working moms, it is more important than ever to grow our professional network. Be it for support or advice with career opportunities or to gain new investors for that next business opportunity, networking is our GPS for greater career success and social capital. Professional networks are intentional investments in relationships with people connected to our career industry or goals. Networking increases social capital for us by expanding who can recommend or connect us to that next job opportunity or promotion. We can all benefit from having a diverse network of supporters, sponsors, influencers, and, most importantly, mentors who can open doors for us during seasons of transitions in and out of the labor market (i.e., unemployment, layoffs, time off, etc.).
So, what exactly can key influencers or sponsors do for me that a resume or online job application can’t do? For one, your network offers more intentional direct links to social capital, such as hiring managers, or people already employed by companies with current job openings. These are individuals who can quickly confirm for you if this is a credible job lead. For those in positions of influence, they can go beyond the minimum qualifications sometimes supplied by hundreds of applicants and confirm your skills and potential added value to the workplace. In other words, your network can vouch for you!
Well, that sounds good, but what does it take to tap into or create my professional network? It may be uncomfortable at first, but you must develop the skill of “telling your own career story.” As women, we are trained or encouraged to minimize our successes, skills, and talents as an act of humility. However, we are the best authors and narrators of our own story. We need to speak about our successes, skills, and talents with confidence. We can use technology to fill in the background details of our story (i.e., LinkedIn profiles). Still, we must explicitly connect with others and build relationships through a variety of professional networking opportunities such as job fairs, conferences, community-based events or memberships, or webinars.
What constitutes a good career story? Ask yourself, how do my life experiences and education (knowledge, strengths, skills, and abilities) translate into the world of work. In other words, what added value will I bring to a position? Do not discount or omit your skills as a mother. The soft skills are what employers are seeking. Moms communicate, use critical thinking skills, and team-oriented approaches to problem-solving. Start telling your story and building a network.
- Begin with an online professional profile on LinkedIn, maximize your efforts, and proactively reach out to connect with people in your field or the industry you are seeking to enter. Ask for the connection, and start a conversation!
- Ask for a 30 min zoom meeting with key influencers or sponsors at companies or industries of interest to you. During these meetings, “tell your story.” Sharing your story with new contacts might seem uncomfortable at first, but remember, networking is about empowerment. You also have to let your network know you are available or open to new employment opportunities.
- Identify a mentor. Your mentor does not have to be someone directly employed in your field of interest. But it should be someone you respect and hold in high regard as a professional. Try to meet at least once a month with your mentor. Ask them to review your resume and mock interviews.
- Join professional organizations, attend virtual webinars and conferences.
- Take a class to upskill or re-skill. Earning a short-term certificate or industry-recognized credential will produce an instant network of class peers and alumni. It will also help you gain new credentials to increase your marketplace value with employers.
Good work alone may not sustain us through economic adversities. But your network, which is investments in other people, creates the social capital for greater access to career opportunities.