13 Feb How to Network After You’ve Been Let Go
As soon as people hear that you’ve been let go, one of their first questions will be, “Are you networking?” In some ways, this is like asking if you’re getting another pet right after you tell them your cat died. It leaves absolutely no space for your feelings, your grieving, and your disorientation after being let go. It assumes you’ll want to get right back out there as soon as possible.
The fact is that unless you’ve been in sales or some other kind of new business development, you may be reaching for the WD-40 to dissolve the rust from your networking skills. Right now, you may also be saying, “But it’s harder, since we’re remote, or hybrid, or hiding in our virtual pods. “ Honestly, I think it’s easier. You don’t have to be in the same location anymore to have a coffee. You can network with anyone, anywhere. And guess what? Zoom will be adding virtual features so that you’ll be able to “smell the coffee” while you’re on-line.
Whether virtual or in-person, there are two main principles of networking:
- It takes only one key connection to begin a cascade of introductions
- You have to follow up
Before you get started, I put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for networkers who have just lost their jobs and want to be deliberate about reaching out to the right people with the right message for the next, best role.
Networking DO’s and DON’T’s for the Newly Freed
- DO. Consider if you actually have a network. Anyone who’s worked 20+ years for the same firm has an extraordinary network inside the company. You’ve managed up, down, and sideways beautifully so you can get your job done in the most cost-efficient way possible. But who do you know outside the company who can help you? Take the time to think of a few, maybe three, trusted mentors, sponsors, or colleagues from other firms or professional conferences that you personally enjoyed meeting and with whom you bonded. Consider why you trust them. Tip: You probably have time to clean out the boxes you took from your office and will find those ancient artifacts—business cards—that will stimulate your memory. Same goes for reviewing your digital contacts
- DON’T. You do not need a list of 100-200 names to be successful. Reading internet articles about the magic number of people you need to cultivate is like diagnosing yourself with a scary disease after looking at photos of angry red skin lesions. Avoid this!
- DO. Ignore the lapse of time since you were in touch with your Trusted Contact. It doesn’t matter whether it’s been three years, three months, or three days. This is a communication between two business people, not friends, where the latter may say, “Now you finally call me, after all these years?” But the former will say, “I’m sorry. How can I help?”
- DO. Before you call anyone, think of what you want to say to them. I know this sounds simple, but you’d be surprised by how many people pick up the phone, and either blurt out their situation or fail to consider what they need to ask or how they’re going to answer follow-up questions. “What happened?” is a basic question that can stump you, or worse, have you bungle an answer that doesn’t put you in the best light.
- DO. Develop a talk track. I don’t mean to string words together that are so stilted that people think you’re speaking in code about a terrible separation. Take the time to sit down and write out a meaningful explanation of your departure that resonates with you, so you can say it with confidence. In this pandemic-economy, cutting costs and retrenchment is a reality. Hiring managers understand the roller coaster of today’s labor market.
- DON’T. If you’re beginning your sentences with, “Between you and me…” zip your lips. Nothing stays between you and anyone else in business, no matter how trusted your audience. Make sure whatever you say does not blame-fix, even if you want to, or burn bridges, even if you couldn’t care less about ever crossing that bridge again.
- DO. Before you call someone to network for a new position, ask yourself this question: “Do I want to replicate what I had before or do something completely different?” You probably won’t know the answer right away, and that’s okay. The gift of being let go is that you also get to let go of stale goals. This is your time to free yourself of preconceived notions of success or someone else’s measure of success. Suddenly, you’re no longer defined by the company’s goals and metrics. You have an extraordinary opportunity to create your own version of what matters.
- DON’T. Don’t give yourself a deadline for figuring out what you want to do next. It’s a process. If you Google how long it takes to find a new job, the answers will range from six months to longer than you expected. If you follow my advice, you’ll be networking in a more strategic way: meeting with people who can help you think differently.
- DO. Create your own criteria for a successful networking meeting. Here are mine:
- Will this be an interesting meeting?
- Will I learn something new?
- Will I be able to help this person in any way?
- Will they be able to help me in any way?
- Will this help me decide on my next step?
We’ve covered a lot of ground, so here’s a quick recap:
- Network strategically when you’re ready
- Figure out your talk track and write it down so you can deliver your message with confidence and authenticity,
- Identify a few people you trust to contact and,
- In the aftermath of your loss, reflect honestly on what you would like to do next. If it’s the same kind of role, that’s awesome—you still have passion and goals you want to achieve. If it’s a new role, that’s awesome—you still have passion and goals you want to achieve. Hold on to that!