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How do you rebuild a professional network?
May 16, 2012 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Please help me rebuild my professional network.

(Asking for a friend. Her notes follow.)

I'm a woman in my 30s with an MBA. Due to health and childbearing and a desire to focus on my family, my work in my field has been limited for the past 10 years. While I've done some freelancing as a consultant and writer for the past 10 years, I've really been out of the workforce, in many ways, as my focus has been my young family. I do still have a very solid resume. I'd like to increase the amount of freelancing I'm doing. But, to do this, I need to pump up my network.

How do I do that? I need to connect with the kinds of people who would hire me for business consulting. Most of the people I know nowadays are moms who run small businesses (very cottage-y) or parents at my school. I've got a bit of work from some of them, but I need to reconnect with decision makers in the business community. The kind of people who sign off on $3k to $20k consulting contracts. How do I go about meeting them? I feel very out of the loop. I've got excellent marketing tools - websites, business blog, social media, etc. I've got good testimonials and solid references. I've done okay at keeping up connections and I have a decent LinkedIn network of about 500 people. I get approached by clients and have even been in the media many times, but that's all been passive. Many of my connections are just other freelancers and consultants and not likely to send work my way or connect me to the people they want to give *them* work. How do I go up the chain in my professional network, so that I'm not just connecting with other freelancers and consultants? I know I'm in a better position than many other parents returning to the workforce, but I feel that, in many ways, I'm almost starting from scratch. Any resources - books, websites, anecdotes - welcome. Thanks.

tl;dr Semi work-at-home mom with MBA looking to rebuild professional network. Has good references & marketing tools but limited professional network.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Work & Money (4 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where do the people in your field (or the people you want to work for) go? Conferences, local meetups, professional mixers, trade shows, that kind of thing. Go to those and go to all the social events that orbit around them. It may require some travel.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone you've worked with before is not only a potential client again but also a potential referee. Pass a personal note to any clients that have hired you in the past, saying you're back in the game and would like to grab a cup of coffee. If they bite, ask them to keep you in mind for any new projects and if they could perhaps soft introduce you to a couple of contacts.

Target your efforts to ways you can avoid the "cold" sell and try use as much energy on introductions and referrals. Even the moms you know might have husbands or friends who can use your services. The more you tell people you're looking for new projects, the more likely they'll think of you when someone else says "I need to hire someone for thing X."

Be part of the ethereal of your network and it will pay off.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:05 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another freelancer here, and I've gotten contracts that size before.

Here are the main ways that I find people/projects:

• Send out short brief blurbs introducing yourself to companies and include your contact info and a few relevant skills: How do you find these companies? Google. Linkedin.The library. But have target companies in mind so that is likely that they can use your skills. Are there magazines written for companies that you would like to do things for? Look up the magazine and they often have a "best X companies of the year".....use that as your list.Seriously there are lists with email addresses and company names and numbers.

• Linkedin.It needs to state that you are independent (give yourself a title with relevant skills),and list specialties.Specialties should not be freelancer writer or editor(or 10000 other people will be listed if there is a search), but list things that are unique to your background and skill set. Also have a link to your website and contact info. I do/have gotten a lot of work this way -- not even from my contacts or people who know people, but people searching for a skill set. I'm assuming that with an MBA there are unique things that you have done/can do.List them. Include descriptions of previous jobs if they are relevant.

• Former colleagues (again,Linked in is great for this)...or as Rodrigo states, let them know that you are available for projects.

Do whatever works for you...I don't really do these other things, but some pple do phone calls or network. I've heard of other people who have a blog for their likely customers and get work that way. Experiment and do what works for you.

If you want another set of eyeballs to see your LinkedIn after you modify it, feel free to ping/memail me.

posted by Wolfster at 2:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, I will pass this along.

@Wolfster, thanks for the offer. Not sure she wants to come out of hiding, but I'll let her know.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:24 PM on May 20, 2012


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