Our careers and our lives are constantly changing. With so many twists and turns it is almost guaranteed that our career plans will not be stagnant. There are many different types of individuals who are moving in/out of a traditional career. Recently the term "comeback parent" has been coined for the parent who has left a paid position outside the home to raise a family, and is now returning to paid external employment. Another example is the graduate student who alternates full time employment with full or part time education. Some leave to take care of an aging relative, start a private practice or a business, attend to personal health issues, or even work part-time from home. While juggling various roles in life, it is important to manage our careers even if it is not currently the highest priority. Networking is an important way to effectively and efficiently tend to your career at all times.
No matter what the circumstance, networking is a key component to success. "Women who make the most seamless transitions back into the workforce are those who don't ever leave it completely" (Malungani, 2005). Mulgani wrote an article specifically for women returning to work after maternity leave. However, the message is the same for all genders, ages and situations. If we never leave our network, the transitions we make along the way can be much easier. "Each stage of adult life brings professional challenges that inevitably require the assistance of others to overcome and goals that can be achieved only if you connect with the right people and information" (Tullier, 1998). Although most commonly associated with the job search process, networking has many valuable uses. For example, those going into private practice can find that networking and word-of-mouth referrals are vital to success.
A student of mine found her dream job after she complimented someone on his sweater in line for coffee. They started a conversation and she shared her career aspirations about wanting to work in television; and he just happened to be a producer of a reality TV series. This story demonstrates that networking is not something that is only reserved for professional events and business lunches. Networking is, and should be, a daily part of life. Effective connections happen through building relationships and nurturing those relationships with ongoing activity. The following are quick, low or no-cost suggestions for maintaining one's network:
The importance of networking was reiterated to me during my graduate program. A colleague informed me that she was leaving her position due to her increasing family obligations. She is now happy to have the opportunity to manage her family more efficiently. However, she keeps up a strong network and knows that when she is ready, her transition back into her career will be an easy one. Her decision caused me to look deeper into what specific factors would make this change easier for her. I then dedicated the rest of my study to investigating how people can weave in and out of their careers, and discovered that networking is a key component. "No one person may provide for all of your developmental needs, but taken together the entire network of your relationships can have a powerful impact on your career" (Harrington and Hall, 2007). Creating a plan at the beginning of any career transition will help individuals move from one career or position to another type of career or lifestyle structure. For any person, in almost any situation, that key is networking.
Hall, D.T., Harrington, B. (2007). Career Management and Work-Life Integration: Using Self-Assessment to Navigate Contemporary Careers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Mulgani, M. (2005). Workforce Re-entry Strategies for Women. Retrieved August 23, 2005 from http://wlb.monster.com/articles/sequencing
Brianna Koucos (firstname.lastname@example.org) received her M.A. in counseling with a specialization in career development from the University of San Diego in 2007.She is currently Assistant Director, Career Services in the CareerResourceCenter at WestminsterCollege in Salt Lake City, UT. She is a Board Eligible National Certified Counselor to complete the certification in 2009.