A cabal of supporters is the main ingredient in a successful return-to-work recipe. It’s a given that you need to gather your people when relaunching your career. I’m going to use the N word here; but re-imagine it a little. I want us all to stop being daunted by the term Networking. No longer do you need to picture a room of speed- dating intros and glasses of warm wine.

Eliminate the Agenda

What we really want to do is build mutually beneficial relationships. The best networking is done without an agenda. A more collaborative, authentic perspective gets you remembered. Also, if it comes to contacting someone who is very senior in your industry, approaching them can feel daunting. Once you have taken away the end goal of “I want a job offer” however, you eliminate the typical hierarchy that puts a lot of pressure on people. Your relationship is more equal.

How to Start

Ideas: could you follow them on Twitter and comment on what they are saying to start off with? Ask to interview them for a blog piece you are doing on the industry? Send them a blog piece on the industry and ask them to critique it? Can you check out their other interests on social media and go after them with a common passion? Think reciprocal, and long term. That is where the value is.

I would never add to my network just with a short term goal in mind. When you relax about this the playing field levels.  It becomes more about sniffing each other out and a meeting of values will be energising, not scary. This interview with Rebecca Newenham reframed things completely for me.

I’ve tried to look back over how I’ve got jobs and who helped me.

Tried and True

For my last job, I went old school, though a recruiter. I insisted on meeting her, you should AALLLLLLLLLLways meet them, and we hit it off talking about ahem, family. I wouldn’t recommend bringing your children up in interview or waxing lyrical about them. I actually found myself trying to weave my credentials back into our conversation. But it kind of proves my point, we built rapport and relationship first, then we got down to “talk turkey” about a role.

She met me, saw that I was normal. I had a good CV but it was secondary to her using her instinct to see me in various workplaces and cultures. Then, she was happy to suggest roles to me and represent me with her clients. That is why the face-to-face is so important.

An Exercise to Try

It could help to sit down with the headings below and then try and fill in as many people as possible under them. In many instances, they will help you leapfrog the job search process just purely by recommendation.

And a quick tip on recommendation; give people an out. Instead of asking “will you be a referee” spin it a little bit and say “do you feel you know my work well enough to be a referee?”. You don’t want to put people on the spot, keep it elegant.

Here’s the list of types of people in your network:


Have already achieved what you aspire to, know you, have seen you through peaks and troughs in your career and have an awareness of what you are capable of. Bonus: they never saw you screaming at the kids to hurry up on the school run, they only saw you owning it in a meeting. They will see you through the lens of how you should now be marketing yourself. As a professional.


Amongst these, you might have one particular power broker who has constantly looked out for you, who is always introducing you and keeping up with what you are doing. Make sure you let them know you appreciate them, and for goodness’ sake keep in touch with them when you are not looking as well.


Come in and out of your life – and give an objective view of where you are at, no strings attached. Best ones give you perspective and remind you to stay in your own lane and away from comparison.

You could hire one, or just join a Facebook group to be part of a community that coach you like an African village.  Women are so supportive of each other just look at the Golden Globes! There are lots of coaching communities on LinkedIn too.

Industry Insiders –

You don’t have to know them just follow them. LinkedIn, Twitter, trade press. I followed the ones making the most noise, seeing what they were saying made me sound informed and relevant. Providers of buzzwords and trends.

Connectors –

Give you access to people and information that you don’t have. Typically, recruiters, or in-house resourcing functions. I would find out the names of in-house recruiters or hiring managers and approach them directly as well as applying online. Or, do something impressive with your CV to get noticed. There’s just a couple of ideas on YouTube….every company is looking for innovation in a disruptive era! Don’t forget to see yourself as a connector too.

Pragmatists –

Keep things real for you, roll their eyes when your expectations are exceeded by your efforts. Help you pace the search. They remind you the opinions of the hiring market are just perceptions, and not reality. Husbands/partners spring to mind!

Friends –

Know your good bits especially when the road back in is bumpy, on your journey, radiators please not mood hoovers, i.e. they get your journey and won’t throw shade on your relaunch plan.

Mentors –

Your inspo: by their journey, what they have overcome as much as what they have achieved. You don’t have to know them; they can be public figures but you can still sit under their wisdom by reading interviews, quotes etc. and model yourself on their courage.

Just Do It

So go ahead and write them all down; these are your assets on the job search balance sheet. The only liability is our fear being afraid to approach them. What human being doesn’t like being asked for help in the appropriate way?

LinkedIn put up a stat recently saying that 85% of jobs come from referrals. In my business, we are constantly trying to come up with clever ways of incentivising people to refer. People forget their contacts/friends are looking. You need to be open about it.

Oh, and WELL DONE YOU for 1) cultivating them and 2) going to work to identify them. They could get you 85% closer to your dream role.