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network_homespun_8_11RISMEDIA, August 11, 2009-(MCT)-Between the reminiscing, dancing and drinking that took place at last month’s Allen Park High School Class of 1979 reunion in Allen Park, MI, Janet Jablonski and Todd Gilliam also did some networking.

“Oh, absolutely,” said Jablonski, an account manager for WCSX-FM (94.7) radio. Jablonski of Canton, Mich., brought along business cards, and made sure to pass them out to classmates who own businesses and might want to advertise on her radio station.

Gilliam of Southgate, Mich., was laid off from a job as a program manager for a Tier One auto supplier in January.

Some old classmates, including his teammates from the Jaguars baseball team who have auto industry jobs, told him “they’d keep an eye open for me,” said Gilliam.

He had a great time at the reunion. His only regret – no business cards.

“… I wished I had brought cards,” said Gilliam, who has since ordered them.

Networking is one of the top ways people can find new jobs and career paths, say career specialists, and your high school reunion is a place where old acquaintances can spark new work opportunities.

“Yes, you should network at your high school reunion,” said Sally Schmall, a career coach who runs Academy Coaching in Ann Arbor, Mich. She recently counseled a client, who had spent six months organizing a reunion, to do the same.

“Her husband has lost his position this year, and her own business is in a tentative state,” Schmall said of her client. “She lives and works in the area, and to be on that committee gave her a perfect opportunity to showcase her leadership skills and her organizational skills.”

When it’s done properly, networking is about sharing information that creates a professional work identity for you, Schmall said.

At the Allen Park reunion, partygoers came armed with photos of their kids – and networking materials.
“I’m going to drum up some business,” said David Post, 48, business manager for the Pat Milliken Ford dealership in Redford Township, Mich. He jokingly called his classmates “easy marks.”

“They’ve known me since we were kids. And they trust me, or you would hope so,” said Post.

Debbie Mastropietro, who came from Minnesota for the party, was laid off from a printing plant and is planning to go back to school to study cosmetology.

“I’m not here to talk about jobs,” said Mastropietro, “but maybe I should.”

Networking can also happen spontaneously at high school reunions, said Jeff Mackey, 38, of Oxford, who recently attended his 20-year reunion for Royal Oak Shrine High.

Mackey, an independent Web site developer, wasn’t planning on achieving business goals during the event he helped organize – “we were more concentrating on getting the cases of beer and wine than trying to network.

“After a little bit of liquid courage, people start to open up and start chatting,” said Mackey. And that’s when he learned that one of his classmates runs a construction business that needed Web site development.

“It’s one of those things that when it happens, it happens when you’re least expecting it,” said Mackey.
(c) 2009, Detroit Free Press.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.