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Dear Heidi: Can you reach out to a former colleague about a job if you haven't talked recently?

Job seekers need to understand the importance of professional and personal networks to stay informed and connected.

When it comes to a job search, we're all familiar with the tired adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know." That's still true, but maybe we can update it to: "It is who you know, so you better keep in touch."

It is awkward to call someone out of the blue, with whom you haven't been in touch with for a lengthy period of time to ask for a favor, especially related to getting a job. It probably won't be as successful as if you'd stayed in touch.

In some instances, some will welcome a call from a past colleague or friend. They may think that time mutually slipped away, but your contact is a welcomed pleasure. If so, reach out more in the future.

Alternatively, if you tend only to reach out when you need something, you are in jeopardy of being considered self-absorbed or perhaps narcissistic. You signal that this relationship means so little, that you only reach out when you need or want something.

Job seekers need to understand the importance of their networks, professional and personal. Networks keep you informed and connected, which is good for your career and your mental health.

According to Jobvite's 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey, networking is the most popular way to hear about a job, with 50% of job seekers learning about a job through a friend, and 37% hear about a job through a professional network. It would help if you stayed in touch to hear about jobs, then apply — 69% of job openings are posted on online job boards and employer career sites.

Networking is essential, yet many people hate to do it. Some of the most common reasons include negative feelings, like bothering someone, embarrassment, or not wanting to be a nuisance. If you feel like this, you need an attitude adjustment.

Make networking fun. Change your mindset, and think of networking as an opportunity for engagement. Every time you engage with someone, you learn something, and you deepen your relationship. In turn, someone else can learn from you and the countless others in your combined networks, and so on, and so on.

Consider, doesn’t it feel good when someone reaches out to you? As humans, we are hard-wired to be generous and social. We want to help others, even strangers. Reaching out feeds our need to be socially connected, and feeling someone's gratitude is good for our well-being. So, change that bad attitude toward networking and get busy; it's good for you.

Your network is much more extensive than you probably think. Consider all of your circles, school, work, church, social organizations, school, and alum groups. Reach out and make contact. Utilize social media during pandemic lockdowns, have a virtual coffee, or write a simple email or text. If you're not sure where to start LinkedIn has a great guide to begin your networking journey.

Don't wait until you need someone to reach out for help. Make it part of your everyday routine to commit to maintaining and growing your network. You won't suffer from FOMO, and your next big job could be just around the corner. You might even help someone else find theirs.

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