Skip to content

Building Your Return to Work Support Network

When you are thinking about your return to work, networking can play a big part in this journey. Whether you are a nervous or natural networker, connecting with others who have a common interest and sharing information is so important. If you tend to fear it, it can be useful to remember that networking is simply ‘a conversation with purpose’ and can arise from conversations you have all the time with people around you – what do you do? Where have you worked before? Do you know anyone in this field or at this company?

Using your current network

Start with your current network and build from there. It can be really useful to plot the different networks you have on paper to capture who your key contacts are. By creating different groups on your map e.g. family, friends, friends of friends, former colleagues, community friends, volunteering contacts, parents at the school gates… you will start to see different people who could help provide ideas and perspectives which you may not have previously considered. Former colleagues can be really valuable in recommending new people to speak to or sharing opportunities, so take time to reach out to them via LinkedIn and send them a tailored message.

What will networking provide?

Networking can provide valuable insights, ideas and intros. Before reaching out to people, do your prep and consider what they might be best placed to help you with:

  • Insights – to understand the latest trends, opportunities and challenges for a particular sector so you feel up to date. It might be to understand the finer detail of a role you’re interested in, to see whether you have the skills or experience or whether the reality matches your beliefs.
  • Ideas – this can be a great opportunity for you to test the validity of some of your ideas and how they land. Are you being realistic? If not, what would you need to do to make your idea more viable? What ideas do they have that you might not have considered- types of roles to consider or organisations to explore? How do they see your skills and experience transferring across? What technical skills are crucial now that you may not have considered?
  • Intros – this comes towards the end of the conversation when the person you’re speaking to has a good feel of what you have to offer and what you’re interested in. Are there any people they’d recommend you reach out to or they can connect you to who might have different ideas or insights?

Your Career Story

Getting out and about and telling your career story to different people is so valuable.

It will not only help you to become clearer on what you are looking for, but it may open up lots of opportunities and new angles to investigate. As Herminia Ibarra says in her brilliant book ‘Working Identity’, ‘We discover the true possibilities by doing ….by reworking our story as we tell it to those around us’.

For more inspiration, listen to our Career Returners podcast episode ‘Make yourself visible’ which illustrates the power of using your current network.

Career Returners Support

If you are looking for further help with how to kickstart your networking, it’s worthwhile remembering you are not alone. We are here to help you and there is lots of valuable information available to you when you sign up to our free network.  You will gain access to our monthly webinars, ‘Your Return’ support magazine, and details of our bi-monthly returner opportunities. We are also excited to share that we will soon be launching our new online community platform for career returners to connect, share, engage, learn and get support – watch this space for more opportunity to get involved and connect with other returners!