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Out of work? Looking for new career? It’s okay to think about what you know. But also rely heavily on whom you know. You never who your next employer may be!

Imagine that you go to work one day, only to discover that your position has been abolished. Or may you decide that you can’t stand your boss any more and you decide to quit in haste. The result is still the same — you no longer have a job.

In some cases (and hopefully with more planning) you can transition to another job in the same or related field. But in these trying and changing times, the old jobs may not be the jobs you want.

The first step is to consider what you know (by education, training, or experience). Think outside the box and recognize that a skill in one career or Job Classification may translate into related or useable skills in another. For example, I learned how to write effectively only after my first boss sent me to a writing course. Back then I wrote bureaucratic memos, PR brochures, and training scripts. Now I write 100,000 word science books and freelance about topics I never would have dreamt about in that lifetime.

But just having great abilities won’t necessarily land you that job. You have to have a solid contact base. For this, you never know when or with whom the contact will have to be made.

For this reason, one has to fall back onto, “It’s whom you know that counts.” And I have been building contacts since I began college. Even though I may not see many of these people often, I find that I meet them periodically at conferences. In this Internet-based era, I find that I am meeting them online and via e-mail even more often.

In my opinion, the best way to make contacts is the old-fashioned way. Nothing beats face-to-face interactions. It’s a great way to learn about each other and, sometimes, it is only through chance conversation that key information surfaces. You can make these contacts at training sessions, attendance at formal conferences, and yes, even on the golf course. I also have contacts I have made in everyday dealings and even people who live nearby. Anyone and everyone can be a prospective employer or a prospective referrer.

I’m very assertive when I’m in new settings. I will search out people who appear to have interesting things to say or share. I am also often willing to present at scientific and technical conferences. This often brings people to me who may become future employees or interns.

But I am always listening and learning about the people I meet, their business and their needs. Then my mind can figure out how I can fit into that particular setting (or maybe one that is similar). Maybe I can even help someone I know get a jobs.

Finally, go back through your Rolodex or professional Facebook or LinkedIn pages. You do have such web pages set up, don’t you? Do you know someone who could provide an opportunity or referral? Did someone tell you to give them a call because they were interested in you for a potential position? The job you are looking for is probably NOT in your local newspaper’s help wanted ads. It may just be where you least expect it.

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