Summers are tough for those of us making our livings by cobbling together contract and part-time positions, some of them short term. This summer has been especially so.
A company for which I was doing public relations closed in mid-June, checks for substitute teaching ended around mid-July, pet-sitting work will probably end in late August. And hopes of supplementing my income with a job at a local bookstore, pharmacy or home store didn't materialize. It was going to be a tight squeeze.
So when a friend suggested I join him for a sales-and-marketing networking group in Shelton, I quickly said yes. Being a networking-oriented guy, I saw it as an opportunity to connect and perhaps identify some summer projects. Most of the people are in job transition and among the nicest and most helpful I've met.
The every-other-week meetings have been a breath of fresh air. I've helped several members, and they've helped me. The group leader suggested another group, too, called Mondays at 7, which meets at the United Methodist Church in Westport.
I've attended three meetings there and have run into people from the Shelton group. The Westport group is incredibly upbeat, and its members willingness to help each other is incredible. There is no fee, and donations of $1 or $2 covers coffee and bagels.
One man there is available for job-coaching sessions and charges nothing. He will review resumes, do mock interviews and suggest pointers for more successful interviews.
And the group brings in some terrific speakers every other week. Recently, Carol McManus, an expert on LinkedIn, talked about how to use the cyber-networking site more effectively.
I learned a lot about how to use and not to use LinkedIn, including ways to efficiently invest just 15 to 20 minutes a day. Of course, once I became immersed in Linked in, I was on it for more than 20 minutes, but I tried to be more efficient.
The bottom line with LinkedIn, according to McManus, is building relationships, not getting jobs. It is a highly effective networking tool, and if one builds a great profile, gets noticed and gets recommendations, there's a better chance of finding a position.
I was psyched after the presentation and went back to try out some of the things McManus shared.
Our speaker this week, executive and business coach Tucker Mays, coach, said networking is the least understood skill, and the most effective networkers get jobs the most quickly. Some people don't like to network because they are uncomfortable or believe it is beneath them.
He shook a lot of us up by saying we should be developing 50 to 60 networking contacts a month, and that we should be networking about 80 percent of the time. "The thing you want to do the least is what you have to do the most," Tucker said.
I couldn't agree more. His 10 tips for effective networking make great sense.
1. Make any networking meetings or calls no more than 30 minutes.
2. Get your "exit story" down to explain why you are in transition.
3. Create a job description (job objective) for yourself that is about one sentence (maybe 30 words) and include your ideal title, skills (3-4), your special talent.
4. At a networking meeting, never ask for a job. Instead ask for advice and guidance.
5. Be open to looking at an interim position on your way to full time work.
6. Create a target list of about 25 companies you'd like to work in and contacts at those companies.
7. Create a one-page biography in the third person to send before a resume.
8. Don't rely on recruiters for jobs.
9. Update your networking contacts at least once a month on your progress.
10. Open yourself with recruiters to relocation. You need to keep an open mind.
I was really energized after that meeting and decided to put Tucker's tips to work during the remainder of this tough summer. I am very encouraged about finding additional work.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: email@example.com.