Networking is not about what's in it for you; it is what you can do for others." For the past 12 years, The Executive Advancement Resource Network (EARN) has been using networking as a cornerstone of its services to support downsized professionals in the GTA.
Since 1990, more than 8,000 business managers and office workers have passed through EARN's doors, as they've tried to come to terms with the rude realities of being downsized in a corporate world.
EARN members network to share information, identify markets for themselves and offer each other encouragement.
"There's a lot of talent idling its engine here, and if that engine starts to idle too long, it starts to wear out. The job search becomes not work, but hard work," says EARN's executive director Oliver Howey.
"The job search is all about intelligence and information. Much information doesn't resonate, but the encouragement that comes from networking comes back tenfold, and that's always been our strength," he says.
The old cliche, "looking for a job is a full time job," is taken to heart at EARN (www.earnworks.org
). So, Monday mornings, members dressed in business attire begin their week by attending networking sessions to share information, identify markets for themselves and offer each other encouragement.
Guest speakers, many of them individual professionals with consulting practices, are a key component of the many networking opportunities offered by EARN.
Members pay $70 a year, and then $5 for each meeting, while non-members pay $10 per meeting.
"You just can't tell someone to go the Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce. Business functions on information and networking provide information you don't get from the newspaper."
Many people assume once the job is found, networking can conclude. This is erroneous thinking. In fact, networking not only provides opportunities to share information with others, it's also good for business as well. Recognizing this, EARN offers monthly meetings for full-time employees who are looking to
foster business deals or pursue their next contract.
Networking is generated independently as well, and EARN also offers members three fully-equipped offices from which to make cold calls and refine resumes.
"The job search is all about intelligence and information," says Oliver Howey, executive director of EARN.
The simulated office space is further enhanced by high-speed Internet and access to printing and fax services. Members are also coached on self-marketing skills and receive feedback on mock interviews from videotaped sessions.
"We give them high-quality coaching about body language and other cues," Howey says. "A skilled interviewer can easily close the gap, so we encourage members to get their act together during the interview process. Every story must be compelling."
Especially when marketing credentials. "The market is credentials-crazy right now, and talented people have a tendency to beat themselves up when they feel their skills aren't being used," he says.
In response, EARN has recently introduced new workshops in project management and leadership with the aim of keeping the job seeker's skills current. Members learn about leadership skills, including conflict resolution, decision making and priority setting. The project management workshop offers three days of fundamentals in structure, terms, process and evaluation of projects. According to Howey, both workshops have been "hugely successful."
But EARN is not quick to rest on its laurels and the organization constantly observes trends in a rapidly changing, knowledge-based economy. With those changes come a new breed of worker and new challenges that must be faced.
The marketplace struggles to absorb the influx of internationally educated professionals who annually descend on Toronto in a population the size of Prince Edward Island.
"The Boomer bulge is also going through the market and constantly asking, 'Is that all there is?'" Howey says. "In the next three years, there will be a big shift as people move in new directions. It's a choice-filled market. More people will move into contract work, consulting, self employment, but they may not be as free as they think."
It's a safe bet the organization will help them EARN their keep.
Toronto freelance writer Carter Hammett can be reached at email@example.com
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