What to do if your networking is "not working"

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Networking is an active process. It’s not something you do only when you’re in need of a job. And that’s how many job seekers are losing out, says Matthew Bud, chairman of the Financial Executives Networking Group. The Financial Executives Networking Group was founded in 1991 as a forum for senior financial executives to share job opportunities and experiences. Members hold such titles as chief financial officer, controller, treasurer, managing director and vice president of tax, M&A or internal audit. “We are a full-blown networking and social networking group,” he tells eFinancialCareers. While the 70 chapters hold physical meetings, the 35 special interest groups often operate virtually over the Internet.

The Challenge for Older Workers

The Financial Executives Networking Group deals with senior level financial executives—individuals with a minimum of 20 years of experience. And, according to Bud, members in the group do note that, today, age discrimination is a big issue. The other challenge, he says, is the tough job market, of course. Luckily, says Bud, his organization teaches individuals who may have been comfortable and in a post for quite some time and far removed from job searches how to once again look for work.

But looking for a new job after the age of 40 can be difficult, he admits. Unless you’re talking about a highly specialized search for a seasoned and older C-suite exec, many of the placement firms are scouring for a younger group of workers. Says Bud, “Recruiters, for the most part, are looking for folks in their early to late 30s, since that’s what their clients usually want.” For older job seekers, networking can be a valuable first step on the job path.

Focus is Key

Bud recommends that job seekers look to networking groups tailored to their industry, job title and years of experience. Also, think about how you can access the group. While social networking is a valuable tool to reach out to people across the country, it’s also useful to have a physical presence in your area to tap into one-on-one relationships.

For organizations like the Financial Executives Networking Group that require a sponsor or referral from a current member to get in, don’t fret if you don’t know someone in the organization. Often, the networking group will put you in touch with someone in the group who will do a bit of vetting to see if you’re the right fit for the group. For networking groups that may not have come with a reference from a friend, you may want to do your own vetting of the organization before you join it. “Be prepared to move on, if need be,” he says.

A New Way of Thinking

Networking is really a process of making new friends, says Bud. He advises members to avoid thinking of asking for advice as a negative thing. “It’s an honor to look to someone for advice,” he says. But don’t simply ask about job openings. The timing is hardly ever right when you’re asking and someone is offering, he notes. It’s better to stay networking and align yourself with people familiar with your career, industry or area of expertise. “Everyone can’t help you, so be directed in your search and in your networking.”

And while many believe that job postings are the lifeblood of a networking organization, and many job seekers might rate an organization by the number of postings available, Bud says this could be a big mistake. Postings are not necessarily the most effective way to get a job, he notes. The relationships formed at a networking organization will be more useful than a moldy posting or a posting without a valued reference. Plus, says Bud, there are many jobs that are never posted.

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