Networking Strategies for Older Workers Returning to the Job

Everybody should network as part of their career development. Building connections with people in and out of the workplace is a good way to find more job opportunities and advance.
A network is valuable to older workers, particularly for those who haven’t been working but are looking to get back on the job. If you’re looking for advice to get back into the workplace, these strategies can help you leverage and build your network and find an easier way back to work.

  • If you have time to prepare (and if you aren’t already), think about volunteering. In addition to making contacts and working on skills that you may not have been using, you might be able to leverage the position for a job or meet the people who can help you get one.
  • Similarly, think about temping as a way to refresh your skills, learn some new ones, meet new people and get to know a company. If you show that you have what it takes, they might bring you on full-time; if they can’t do so at the time, your name could be one of the first ones they call when a position becomes available.
  • It’s not just your peers who can be part of your network; all generations of people in your life can refer you to job opportunities and serve as references. Speak to your entire personal network—friends, neighbors, family. Here’s a list of must-have people for your network, but think broadly as well.
  • Cast a wide net.Right or not, age discrimination is a workplace problem, so increase your odds by putting in as many applications, or reaching out to as many contacts, as possible.
  • When applying for a job, go straight to the source. It’s typical to be referred to a job and then go through normal HR application procedures, but your chances of success increase by using your professional contact to communicate directly with the hiring manager. You might still need to go through the standard procedures, but you’ve identified yourself as proactive and made sure that you’ll be remembered.

There are also strategies that everybody should follow regardless of age, but are even more important for experienced workers:

  • Have your elevator speech and networking cards ready for use at all times—you never know who you might meet.
  • Maintain your relationships with past professional contacts. Even if it’s just a quick phone call or email to catch up, it strengthens the personal bond that can be a big influence when it comes to who to refer to certain open positions.
  • Follow up with new contacts, just to show gratitude and appreciation.

There are plenty of resources out there for older workers looking to network. You can connect on the AARP’s online community as well as the GoodProspects forums for industries that interest you. You can also network via social networks, especially LinkedIn.