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AT THE OFFICE: Connections are everywhere

Bonnie Smith spent 18 years in corporate communications at Hallmark Cards and American Century. When the latter job ended, she wanted to "get out of corporate America."...

Bonnie Smith spent 18 years in corporate communications at Hallmark Cards and American Century. When the latter job ended, she wanted to "get out of corporate America."

So to learn more about the small-business world, she asked to meet with Molly Proffer, co-owner of Proffer Productions and someone with whom Smith had done business.

"I hadn't job-hunted yet. I was just trying to figure out what to do," Smith said. "But Molly asked if I'd like to create a sales and marketing job with them. I wasn't ready for that! But after I thought about it, I said yes. We'd worked together enough for Molly to know my skills and I knew them."

Smith said she wanted to share her story "as a message of hope for people who think they're stuck in their jobs and they don't know anybody. They don't realize the connections they have. People are networking all the time and may not realize it."

Miguel Valdes offers another example. He worked for Sogeti USA in the same building as the outplacement consulting service of Lee Hecht Harrison.

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The day Valdes lost his job, he ran into Dan Chojnacki, an Lee Hecht Harrison officer, in the elevator.

"Dan said, 'Come on in and see us,' even though I didn't have an official outplacement package," Valdes said. "Just having the connection with someone who was saying, 'I'm in this with you' helped my job hunt."

Five months after his job loss, Valdes became re-employed at Genesis10 "through a person I know -- someone I'd worked with before. It was all due to networking."

Valdes, like Smith, wants to encourage job hunters not to be intimidated about "networking."

The word may sound intimidating, but it just means making your availability known to people who know you. They may have work ideas you never thought about.

(Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at The Kansas City Star. Her "Your Job" blog at economy.kansascity.com includes daily posts about job-related issues of wide interest. She can be reached at dstafford@kcstar.com .)

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