Be the Boss Over Cancer

Time and time again, I hear the same refrain from people who are unemployed - "I wish I had spent more time keeping up my network while I was working, it would make my job search much easier." This might be particularly true - and understandable -- if all your free time is taken up with doctors' appointments, treatment schedules and all of the other time consuming things that come along with cancer treatment and recovery.

If you read this and realize that you'd be in the same situation or would be if you lost your job tomorrow, it's not too late to change. In fact, no matter how strong your connections are, it's always good to network a little bit every week. Here's how to begin:

  • Start by thinking about four or five people from your past with whom you haven't communicated in a while. Look up their phone numbers or e-mail addresses and get in touch with them to say "Hi." Promise them and yourself that you won't let as much time go by without being in touch.
  • Begin organizing your current professional and personal contacts in one place, such as your Palm, in Outlook or contact management software like Act! When you meet someone new, enter his or her information as soon as you can. Don't let business cards stack up.
  • Keep track of when you've last talked with someone and every week contact three people you haven't spoken to in three months or longer.
  • Remember that the essence of networking is reciprocity. Is there information or advice you can share with someone? Can you alert them about an opportunity? Have you learned about a new resource you can share? Are you excited about something? Can you introduce two people to each other?
  • When you are scheduled to attend a professional conference or association meeting, be sure to maximize your opportunities to network by setting objectives for people you'd like to meet and learn from. Bring lots of business cards (print some even if you're not working) and follow-up with everyone you've exchanged cards with within a week.
  • If you are an expert in your field or even if you're not, start giving speeches at association meetings. People will approach you and initiate contact for networking purposes.
  • If you're working, invite someone you don't know well at your company to have lunch with you. Get to know as many people as you can within your organization and stay in touch with people when they leave.
  • Offer to coach or mentor younger or less seasoned people. Many of them will continue to succeed in the business world and become valuable contacts.
  • Get comfortable introducing yourself, making small talk and describing how you make a difference in your work in a compelling way.

Making networking a habit will take thirty days if you do one thing in this article every day. You'll realize that networking isn't just for job hunting but instrumental to your professional success.  It will also help to keep your life outside of cancer in your sights, especially if you have stepped away from your career to focus on recovery.

Tell us: What is your networking strategy?  What is the hardest thing about networking for you?  Has it changed since you had cancer?



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