"Networking" has the air of something you do to get a job more than as a regular practice once you have one.
Yet career experts say its continuation is key to advancing your career, especially when you're established.
The practice is founded on the principle of trading, so step one is figuring out what you have to offer.
"Everyone has something to trade, even during unemployment or other career shocks. The advantage of being over 40 is that we’ve got plenty to trade," writes Robert L. Dilenschneider, author and networking expert.
"We have our skills down. We know large numbers of people. Many of them owe us favors. We've proved that we can survive difficult workplace situations. We understand the corporate cultures of various organizations and what those firms' gatekeepers look for in a resumé."
Once you've identified your trading assets and strengths, experts advise patience.
"Networking is about building relationships and that can take a while….the ideal time to start networking is before you need someone’s help," Dilenschneider notes.
- Determine how to make the most of your networking time, such as professional groups, organizations, alumni networks or more. Don't waste valuable time on anything that will not advance your cause.
- Volunteer with an organization or effort that can help your career. Look for ways to share your expertise, as opposed to busy work.
- Stay on top of developments in your field.
- Use the right method for communicating. When you're reaching out to a contact, figure out whether it's best via email, snail mail or a phone call.