Column, June 10th 2011

Q: Like many others, I worked in the construction sector for many years. I am now looking to get into sales or retail. I hear a lot of people talking about networking – but, and this might sound unusual, I don’t know where to start. Any thoughts?

A: Have no fear, you’re not alone. If you have never done any formal networking, either to generate custom for your business, or to create potential employment leads, it can be difficult to know how to go about it.

The first point we would make is that not all networks are formal. In fact, Ireland being such a fraternal society, a huge amount of job openings are communicated through unofficial, informal networks.

Thus, any club you’re involved in can be a place to let it be known that you’re looking for an opening in sales or retail. How? By simply telling people. It really can be as simple as that.

You would be surprised how many people have misconceptions about you. Those misconceptions may include:

1.      They think you’re actually working at the moment and don’t realise you are on the look-out;
2.      They know you’re not working, but don’t know that you’d be willing to work in the retail or sales sectors;
3.      They know you’re not working, but don’t want to intrude on your privacy, don’t want to bring it up in case it embarrassed you in any way.

Tell people your situation. Ask them to bear you in mind if they hear of anything going. You’ll find that lots of people are keen to help out, even if it’s only to pass on a contact number or to put a word in an ear. Don’t over-burden people in this regard, they have their own lives to lead too, but you may find they are happy to lend some assistance.

Much the same rules apply when you move into formal networks. Here, you tell people about yourself, what you are looking to do, and, crucially, what value you can bring to a potential employer. Where possible, focus on the future, not the past: people changing sectors is commonplace at the moment, so rather than indulging in a long spiel about how the building trade has knocked you down, talk about how you are now eagerly looking forward to the next challenge.

No harm to have a simple business card with your contact details on it. When you go to networking events, your aim should not be to give your card out to as many people as possible: rather, try to isolate the few people you’d like to talk to and get to know. Listen to contributions during round-table sessions and make a judgement call on who might be able to open a door or two for you.

Where to go? In your own area, you will find lots of networking possibilities. Organisations such as the Open Coffee Club, local resource clubs, unemployed networks, – check them all out, keep asking questions about other groups in the area, and you will be surprised at the amount of support out there.

Don’t be nervous about attending. You’re at a crossroads, but you’re certainly not alone there. Ireland is full of crowded crossroads right now.

To reiterate, though, go in a positive frame of mind, be keen to talk about your next move, and put your past career on the back-burner.

Online, you will find plenty of network groups to join – free of charge – on Best of luck. Take action, it will generate its own momentum. As the famous quote goes: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Sli Nua Careers (Watson’s Lane, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo / Drum East, Bushy Park, Galway, tel 094 95 42965 / 091 528 883, carry out CV Preparation, Mock Interviews, Interview Training, and Career Direction. For your free e-book on interview & CV tips, email They provide online CV makeovers at