4 Networking Secrets No One Ever Tells You (for People Over 50)
This guest post was written by Mary Shannon of SeniorsMeet and is posted with her permission.
It’s not what you know, it's who you know — that's what all the gurus say, right? The networking scene is more saturated than ever, and handing out business cards and LinkedIn connection requests is likely not cutting it any longer.
Seniors can often face age discrimination when looking for new opportunities. That’s where networking comes in, and older adults are most suited to it! Years of experience and building up trust and rapport has got to come in handy, so leverage your gains. Following the simple 'who you know' mantra can be the key to business, financial, and even life success, so read on.
1. Know Your Purpose (and Your Worth)
Be clear about what you’re seeking. Your end goal could be to find a business partner, part-time work, or anything in between — but knowing your purpose will help you identify and reach out to the right people for the job.
Seniors typically have years of experience in numerous fields, but when networking, it can become easy to cut yourself short. Know your worth and the value you bring to any proposition. Setting up your boundaries will help you pass on opportunities that aren't quite right for you — while holding out for the ones that are.
2. Two Things You Should Never Do
There are two cardinal rules to networking that you should always try to follow. They are:
1. Never ask outright for an interview. Instead, ask your contact about the kind of work they do, what it entails, and how they got into this line of business.
2. Never ask for an opportunity or job. Simply let your contact know you’re looking to start a business or seeking an opportunity.
Why are these rules important? Networking is based on trust, reliability, and the gentle stoking of relations. According to Glassdoor, by announcing your intentions from the get-go, you run the risk of putting off people instead of learning from their experiences.
3. Pull Don’t Push
This leads us into another networking secret: Learn about the other person through conversation. If you’re setting up a meet and greet with someone whose contacts and network you’re interested in tapping into, don’t make it about yourself.
Listen to them with genuine interest, and ask questions that engage with what they’re sharing. Most people love talking about themselves, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. Hearing their story is how you’ll know if they volunteered somewhere that might be of interest to you, or if you share an alma mater. These small learnings create common ground, making it easier for you to reach out when you do need help.
4. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Everyone likes a go-getter who makes their own reality. Perhaps you’ve been looking for the right time to start a business or nonprofit. Assess your risks — and just go for it! You’ll be able to structure your organization however you want: If you like finances, handle accounting. If you like strategizing, manage operations.
Forming an LLC is another must of being your own boss, as it allows you to run the show without putting your home or personal investments at risk. You’ll be able to make your own time and leverage any extra funds or retirement bonds you may have, as well as tax breaks, while constantly growing your network. Win-win!
Want another secret? Take from others, but give back to them, too. When people give you their time or connect you to someone they know, they are trusting you to walk into their world. Give back through a simple thanks, and reciprocate the help when they need it. The mutual give and take relationship that is networking can be a gold mine of opportunity. Follow that instinct you’ve built up over the years and get out there and make connections that carry you through life.
Mary Shannon created SeniorsMeet.org, along with her husband, Bob, to have a website that allows seniors to meet up and talk about topics that are relevant to their daily lives. They hope to build SeniorsMeet into a supportive community of like-minded seniors.