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Archive for Thursday, April 8, 2010

Don’t wait for unemployment to start networking

Amanda Diercks and Lana Davis, both of Sunflower Bank, chat during an after-hours mixer Feb. 17 hosted by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. Experts say networking is especially important during tough economic times.

Amanda Diercks and Lana Davis, both of Sunflower Bank, chat during an after-hours mixer Feb. 17 hosted by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. Experts say networking is especially important during tough economic times.

April 8, 2010

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Lawrence Women’s Network

To learn more about the Lawrence Women’s Network, visit

LawrenceWomensNetwork.org.

Every other Friday, Megan Poindexter and about 20 other Lawrence businesswomen get together to talk about their professions.

Poindexter, development director at the Lied Center, says hanging out with her peers involved in the Lawrence Women’s Network brings both personal and professional benefits.

“The common thread is these are all women who work hard, are ambitious, value work/life balance and want to see each other succeed,” said Poindexter, now the group’s president. “We do business with each other, refer new customers to each other. And one of the biggest benefits is so simple: We have a lot of fun together.”

The members of the Lawrence Women’s Network already have figured out one of the keys to success in business, whether you’re an entrepreneur or working for someone else: It’s all about who you know.

“We know 80 percent of jobs are filled through informal networks,” said Jay Pryor, business consultant for the Lawrence Workforce Center, 2540 S. Iowa. “By the time an ad is in the paper, they’re already talking to in-house candidates and other people they know. It’s like picking a lottery number — you’re just a number.”

Don’t wait

In an economy where few sectors have been immune from layoffs, it’s always a good idea to have a solid network of friends, acquaintances and colleagues to draw upon, Pryor said. Starting after you’ve lost your job is too late.

His first steps:

  • Make a list of 30 people you know. They might be business contacts, friends or fellow members of clubs or social organizations. Then, start contacting them to talk about business opportunities.
  • Perfect a 30-second “elevator speech” about your career goals.

“Be really crystal clear about what you’re looking for and what your skills are,” Pryor said.

Online networking

In the past few decades, Pryor said, “everything has changed about how people look for jobs and land jobs.”

The Internet is a big reason for that.

Dave Peck, a Silicon Valley-based social media expert, said tools such as LinkedIn are playing an increasing role in the job market. And like any networking, waiting until you’re desperate for a job is too late.

“I tell people that all the time — don’t get on LinkedIn after the fact,” Peck said.

LinkedIn is sort of a Facebook for the professional world, where users can have a list of contacts, ask questions of peers and search for jobs.

“You’re building yourself up as a brand,” Peck said.

He said anyone in any career field could benefit from LinkedIn. He suggested asking or answering questions on discussion boards to make connections with others you may not already know. He also suggested trying different keywords in your LinkedIn profile to attract others to learn more about you.

Still, Peck said, LinkedIn is only a tool that should be used in conjunction with other networking.

“I always say you can’t beat face time,” he said. “If you can talk to someone one on one, then the online stuff does help with branding.”

Making connections

It’s that kind of face time that the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is always working to provide for its members.

Cathy Lewis, the chamber’s vice president for membership, said most of the activities planned by her organization — including after-hours mixers, legislative breakfasts, business expos and even golf tournaments — are, at their heart, about networking.

“The more people who know about what you do, the better,” she said. “It leads to word-of-mouth referrals. Lawrence is a very personal community. People like to know the people they do business with.”

And while many of the chamber’s activities are geared toward helping expand existing businesses, sometimes those attending end up with new jobs from the connections they make.

“You never know when opportunity is going to knock,” Lewis said.

That’s one of the reasons members of the Lawrence Women’s Network gather twice a month at local restaurants. And whether members are happily employed and looking for more business, or looking for work, members hope to give each other some support.

“The support network we try to provide at LWN,” Poindexter said, “helps our members get through these tough times by helping each other connect to opportunities and ideas, but also on a personal level.”

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