Networking in a down economy

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PHOENIX - With unemployment still high, a jittery stock market and fears of another recession, it is no wonder many people are worried about their jobs. It turns out the answer to easing some of that anxiety might just be in finding some new friends, according to local networking expert Gelie Akhenblit.

"The very first thing I tell people about networking is to think of it as you're really out there looking for friends," she said.

Akhenblit runs, an online resource for finding and maximizing networking events. She says while most people have heard about networking, many don't really understand what it is.

"So when we say 'networking' a lot of people think, 'Oh, I show up to an event, hopefully they have free food because I want some free food, I'm going to hand out business cards, I'm going to collect business cards," she said.

And while that mingling is part of it, Akhenblit said what you are really looking for are connections. You are looking for people that you can add value to and you are looking for people that could contribute to your network, as well.

Akhenblit suggests arriving early to meet the event organizers, that way they can introduce you to others coming in. She says since you are there early,  others will gravitate to you, meaning you don't have to try and join in conversations already taking place.

"Just place yourself in the walkway where there is traffic, and smile," she said.

That smile helps break the ice, Akhenblit said.

"So if you can make somebody feel good, they are going to want to be your friend and they are going to want to help you," she said.

And Akhenblit suggests not to keep it all business. You are trying to build a personal relationship. Ask about family, hobbies, even pets.

"Because you're going to do business with people that you know, like and trust and if you're looking for a job, nobody is going to recommend you unless they know you and they trust you and they have to like you," she added.

And she also added you need to follow up with people you meet. Join their Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook circles.

"You have about 72 hours, which translates into about three days," she said. "After that our memories start to fade."

And don't just make that initial move. Follow their posts, wish them Happy Birthday, or "like" thier comments.

"What is important for you is to stay on people's radar and if you are on somebody's radar, they are going to remember you if there is an opening in their company," she said.

And finally, the best time to network? Akhenblit said that would be right now.

"You should always, always have your network before you need it," she said. "By the time you need that job, or by the time you are desperate for clients, that is not the most ideal time to start networking. You should ideally already have a network."

Networking Phoenix has a big networking event coming up Aug. 29, so there is no excuse not to start adding to your support system.

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