How to Network Effectively When You Are Unemployed

Many of these blog posts are inspired by questions that people ask me in lectures and workshops, some by questions sent to me by email and some from questions people ask on the popular Q&A site Quora. Most of the time if one person asks a question thousands more have the same problem so I put an answer here, too, where everyone can read it.

Just this week an anonymous user on Quora asked "Long term job seekers are advised to build a network but who would want to network with them?".  This is a very interesting question because it highlights two misunderstandings about networking and there is actually a fairly straightforward way to solve this problem.

First of all, you are not supposed to wait until you are long-term unemployed to start building a network. It can take years to build a solid network -- though much less to get started -- so you should be doing it long before you are unemployed. Network while you have a job, and even network while you are still in school. Done well, this network will step in the moment you lose your job and you will not be out of work for long.

But let's assume that for some reason you missed the lecture about networking in your university. You missed the workshop about networking organized by your company. Now you are out of work and you are starting from zero. How do you build a network in these circumstances? As the anonymous questioner asks, who wants to connect to someone who is unemployed? 

There are, actually, plenty of people who would connect with you even if you don't have a job. Networking is a long-term game and you should not be connecting with someone just for what they do now but for what they could do in the future. Plus your old school friends, former colleagues and neighbors are all likely to connect with you.

And all the others will probably be happy to connect with you, too,  if you give them a reason. You might be unemployed but you don't need to be inactive. While you are out of work use some of your time to volunteer for professional organizations, local startup communities, the local chamber of commerce, the local TEDx team, local charities and anything else where you might be able to contribute with your skills.

When you volunteer for any non-profit you are surrounded by other people who see you not as long-term unemployed but as a valued member of their team. They will be happy to connect with you. Some are perhaps employed, some are consultants and maybe some are looking for work, but all of them have something in common.

Volunteering also looks good on your CV and gives you a chance to demonstrate what you can do. If I am looking to hire an event organizer and I see someone who is organizing successful events for a non profit I am more likely to hire them than many others.

And what if you live in a small town with no voluntary activities? Actually pretty much any town has something, but even if there is nothing then you have another option: be the person who creates Smallville Startup Weekend, TEDxSmallVille or whatever. As the founder you get more recognition for your leadership skills and you get to network with everybody. And what if you have no leadership skills? Start leading and the skills will come pretty quickly. 

Being out of work is no excuse for not networking. Get out there, do things and connect with the other people who do things. In some ways being out of work actually makes it easier, because you have more time for these activities than many people with a full time job and a family.

More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in the second edition of my book Payforward Networking, available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan provides lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking, influencing, speaking and other communication topics. To book a session email or call 0046 730 894 475. You can also find out more at


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