Network or confidence? Chicken or egg?

In a recent conversation with a girlfriend who lives in Kuala Lumpar we were discussing her plan to return to work when she comes back to Australia. While she is in Malaysia she is unable to work due to visa restrictions.

I have always thought that confidence is the number one obstacle for women planning a return to work and by building your confidence you’re then able to get out there and network. My friend posed an alternative view and I think she may be on the money. Her theory is – network first, and your confidence will follow. If you manage to maintain a professional network while you’re on parental leave or on a career break, it will lead to a boost in confidence. Knowing that you have a professional network to tap into will give you a sense of security and confidence in potential employment options. There may not be anyone in your network who will directly offer you a job, but they may well know of suitable opportunities or be able to put you in touch with someone else who does.

How do you build and maintain a network? Here are three simple tips:

1. If it helps you to be more organised, keep a record of all your contacts (in a notebook or in an Excel spreadsheet). Make a note of all your key contacts in the business world, their contact details, role title and company. It also helps to make a note of the last time you met or spoke with them and a brief summary of the conversation. This can be a good reference point when you make contact again later. Remember – include all business contacts whether you met them in a business context or socially.

2. Proactively and strategically add to your professional network. Once you’ve identified where you’d like to work next, make a conscious effort to develop relationships with people who work in that industry. You can do this by joining industry associations and speaking with friends and ex-colleagues. Quizz your current contacts on who they know in your target industry and ask for introductions. Through them you may be able to broaden your network.

3. Each time you meet someone knew, regardless of the circumstances, consider it an opportunity to expand your network. You never know when these contacts may come in handy.

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