As a mom re-entering the workforce there are countless things you are probably thinking about. Updating your resume, writing that dreaded cover letter, and preparing for the (gulp) interview are no doubt top concerns. Figuring out how you’re going to balance being a mom with the demands of a new job is probably also front and center on your mind!
With the stress and pressure moms often feel to get a job, it can be tempting to send out tons of resumes in the shortest amount of time possible. But if that’s your main job search tactic, I’m guessing you’re not hearing many responses.
Your time is precious. Each minute counts when you’re a busy mom, so you want to be as strategic as possible with your search.
Sure, sending out 100 resumes per day might make you feel productive. However, when it comes to finding a job these days, it’s quality over quantity.
Read below to learn about the importance of networking and how to cultivate and use your network to land a job faster:
Networking Tip #1: Start Small
Does the thought of networking make you want to hide in a closet? Maybe you are picturing a giant room where you have to approach dozens of strangers, strike up a conversation, and make small talk.
If you’re extroverted and love talking and mingling in large groups, this might sound fun. But if you’re more on the introverted side like me, it probably sounds like quite the opposite of fun.
Regardless of where your comfort lies with networking, it can be challenging to go from talk revolving solely around Daniel Tiger and the ABC song to having more intelligent discussions.
But you don’t need to dive head-first into the networking deep-end. Start by contacting people you know. Friends, family, current and / or past colleagues or mentors are all people who are in your corner and are probably eager to help. Even if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, reach out to former colleagues and let them know you’re still alive and starting to job search. These are also folks who can be a reference!
Let friends and even family know you’re looking for a job in XYZ field. Ask them if they have a cousin who has a cousin. And would that cousin be willing to chat with you briefly about their job?
You never know who could be your biggest advocate. Cousin Fred might be a little eccentric, but he also might have a connection to the hiring manager at your top company.
Practicing your networking skills on people you know and feel comfortable with allows you to get your feet wet and talk to people other than your kids!
Networking Tip #2: Be Gracious
I’m sure you have heard of the term “pay it forward.” If someone is generous enough to offer you 15-20 minutes of their time, make sure to be prepared before your conversation so that you don’t waste their time.
If you haven’t done an informational interview before, it’s not rocket science. It’s actually pretty straightforward if you’re prepared. You can use the following checklist to make sure your interview goes smoothly:
- Research the person you are going to interview! Jump on their LinkedIn profile and read about their background. Maybe you can find something in common, like attending the same college or having the same major. Maybe you have even worked for the same company! The point is, you want to make the interview all about them.
- Ask your interviewee how they would prefer to connect. Typically informational interviews are done over the phone, but they can also be done via email (you send a list of questions and your contact writes answers) or Zoom / Skype. Be respectful about your contact’s time. Info interviews shouldn’t go over 30 minutes.
- Prepare a list of about 5-7 questions, such as: How did you get into XYZ field? What led you to apply for your current position? What are the major challenges you see facing this field and why? What do you like most about your job? Least? What are the top three skills or characteristics you feel are necessary to succeed in XYZ field? Which industry publications do you read? Do you belong to any professional associations or groups? Do you have any advice for someone trying to break into XYZ field? Do you know of anyone else in the field who I should be talking to?
- After the interview, send a thank you note (email is fine) within 24 hours. Follow up periodically (no more than once every couple months).
- Keep a networking log (an excel spreadsheet works great) and write down any pertinent information so you can track your activity.
If a stranger reaches out to you for some career help, say yes. Every time I get contacted by professionals on LinkedIn for informational interviews, or my friends and family need help with their resumes, I always say yes. I might not feel like saying yes, but I say yes. I remember distinctly what it’s like to feel vulnerable in a job search. It’s pretty damn humbling and scary!
Networking Tip #3: Be Strategic
If you are not on LinkedIn, you need to create an account asap! It’s normal if you feel overwhelmed at the thought of creating a LinkedIn profile. But like the resume, your LinkedIn profile is always a work in progress. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
But ideally you want to create a profile and have some basic information about who you are, what you’re looking for, and what value you bring to your industry.
In additional to LinkedIn, there are groups on Facebook and other social media platforms. Joining general mom groups is a great idea, but you can also join groups that relate directly to your targeted field.
Once you create and / or update your LinkedIn profile and join groups, make sure to participate! Ask questions and provide answers to fellow members’ questions. Share relevant articles on topics of interest. Follow companies and professionals of interest on Instagram and Twitter so you can stay up to date on industry trends.
See related: Top 10 LinkedIn Mistakes for Moms Returning to Work
Studies show roughly 85% of jobs are found through networking! That’s why it’s to important to build your professional network and reach out to do informational interviewing early on and throughout your job search. Although networking can be intimidating at first, the more you practice the easier it gets!