Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

Hit the pavement with polished networking tools

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As the presidential transition and retirement wave sweep over agencies during the coming months and years, the resulting work-force turnover may create opportunities for you to move up the career ladder. Some ways to generate networking contacts who may help you seize such opportunities:

*Cold-call agencies that are hiring. Likely agencies are those that are new, being reorganized, being affected by new laws or receiving big budget boosts. Regularly read Federal Times, The Washington Post’s online Fed Page and trade publications to keep up with these changes.

Identify target managers to contact by checking the agency’s online organizational charts and The Yellow Book, which is available at many libraries. Also, ask your alumni organizations and the professional organizations to which you belong for the names of their members who are at your target agencies. Then, call your target managers and request informational interviews from them.

*Market yourself on electronic mailing lists, maintained by many organizations. First, craft a short announcement of your availability that summarizes your skills and a PDF version of your résumé. Also, consider creating a Web site that showcases your skills. Post your announcement, résumé and your Web site address on the electronic mailing list of your alumni organizations, relevant professional organizations, community groups, political organizations and your LinkedIn network. Also e-mail these documents to your existing network of contacts.

*Use GovLoop.com. This dynamic social networking site for government professionals has thousands of members at all career levels and from dozens of U.S.-based and overseas organizations. Many of these members have already used the site to connect with hiring managers and other feds who share their professional or personal interests.

Some ways to maintain your hard-won networking contacts:

*Stay in touch with former colleagues, even those you don’t like, via occasional phone calls, e-mails and social outings. As you climb the career ladder, so will your colleagues. Even if they can’t help or hire you now, some of them will probably be able to do so later. What’s more, as your colleagues move to new agencies, they may serve as access points into other organizations.

*Send out e-mail blasts. Maintain an up-to-date electronic file of the e-mail addresses of your networking contacts. Every time you change jobs, send out a friendly global e-mail with your new contact info. Also encourage your networking contacts to stay in touch with you.

*Help others. The more helpful you are to your contacts, the more likely they will reciprocate. Indeed, such help is the best way to earn the good will, affection and respect of others. So if, for example, one of your colleagues is struggling to meet a tight deadline, manage a crisis or recruit attendees for an event, help out, if possible, even if doing so inconveniences you.

Maintain up-to-date versions of:

*Your elevator speech. Craft a 20-second speech that describes your most important credentials, explains why your work is important and, if appropriate, describes your target job. Practice saying it energetically. And then say it energetically whenever anyone asks you about yourself.

*A networking card. Create a business card that features a snappy title, such as “Expert in X.” If you have expertise in any particular subject, call yourself an expert. Include your contact info and several fast-read bullets that capture your most important credentials. You can professionally print hundreds of business cards for under $50. Distribute your card with wild abandon at social and community events.

*Your résumé. It should always be ready to go. That way, you will be able to quickly respond to requests from your networking contacts for your résumé. This is important because hiring managers will be impressed by your rapid response time.

Lily Whiteman is a public affairs officer at the National Science Foundation and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.’’ Her Web site is IGotTheJob.net. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.