Most people think of networking as a necessary evil. They don’t want to do it but they know they are supposed to do it. Networking is also mysterious. How does meeting people turn into a job? Just how does that work? Most people are confused about how to network effectively.
When people network to find work they usually tell their contacts that they are looking for a job, and ask whether the person has heard of anything. That seems like the right thing to do. If you are looking for a job it’s logical to ask people if they have heard about any in your industry. And sometimes the person has heard of a job and will tell you about it. But more often the person isn’t aware of job postings because he is not looking for a job himself and if he is, you will be the last person to hear about his leads!
People who are working are busy. Even really nice, helpful people are not going to devote time and effort to do your search for you. So when a job seeker says “Have you heard of any jobs?” the standard reply is, “No, but if I do hear of anything I will contact you.” That is the end of the conversation. Often it’s a dead end.
For this reason the standard approach to networking for a job is often unproductive if you use what I call the “J” word (jobs) too soon in your search efforts. You get a very short and uninformative conversation. You miss a lot. You miss out on learning the gossip, rumors and on-the-ground information. You miss out on learning about workplaces that are busy and growing. You miss out on creating or deepening friendship. You miss out on creating trust. And what’s worse, this person is probably going to try to stay away from you in the future because he or she doesn’t want to feel guilty about not being helpful to you. You get the “leper effect.”
The usual way contacts handle a job seeker who wants to talk about where the jobs are is to tell him or her to look at job postings. There are many search engines and the jobs posted there can appear to be very juicy. Job seekers often spend a lot of time and effort putting together the right resume and cover letter to try to get in the door for an interview using these online portals. But it turns out that that approach has serious problems. Online portals are often disappointing when it comes to actually landing a job. Turns out only 2.1% to maybe 4% of jobs are landed by people who apply online using search engines. I have worked with many disillusioned job seekers who have applied to hundreds of postings and gotten nowhere. Many say, “I feel like I am sending my resume into a black hole.” And it turns out, they are right about that.
Eighty percent of jobs are never advertised. Many companies use talent management software to screen resumes and about fifty percent of the applications are weeded out before a human being reviews them. Internal sources of hiring are the best way to find work. Sixty one percent of hires are referred by internal sources (employees) and twenty six percent come through a job posting on the company website, but they might also be getting a boost or endorsement from someone inside the company or another person who is known and trusted by the workplace. Seventy percent of jobs are found by networking, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What is the take-home lesson? The insiders are getting the jobs.
By insiders I don’t mean people who get unfair opportunities because daddy pulled the strings. I mean people who have the right skillset and either already have or create a relationship with someone known and trusted by the workplace. In addition they often earn an endorsement from that person by making a positive impression. And by endorsement I do not mean the kind on LinkedIn, although LinkedIn is an invaluable resource for job search in many ways. No, the insiders are people who conduct their networking in a different way.
I found this out by counseling over 3,500 people in transition. Many of them were looking for jobs and others were trying to transition to new fields. In my work with them, I learned there were gifted networkers who landed job opportunities through a process I term rapid relationship and trust building. It has to be done in person. It has to be informed by good research, preparation, and emotional intelligence. And it works best if it isn’t just about you getting a job.
The secret is that outstanding networkers engineer luck and also create a positive buzz about themselves in the process of their job searches by connecting others, being helpful, generous, and good listeners. In the process of helping other people they learn the lay of the land, hear the gossip, and get invited into a work setting with an endorsement that helps them stand out from the pack, circumvent the software scanners, and get the all-important interview with a cherry on top – an endorsement from someone who met them in person for a mini-interview (breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee).
This kind of networking is not networking as usual. You don’t use the “J” word until you know of places where your skills match up with the needs of the workplace and where you are likely to be welcome.
You might think that it would take a long time to develop these kinds of connections with people, but in fact this kind of relationship building can often be done quickly and effectively if it is done in the right way. This approach is the fastest way to get a job. I teach this method to all of my clients looking for work and it really helps them.
If you would like to learn more about this new method for job search, check out my book, Job Quest: How to Become the Insider Who Gets Hired. It is available on Amazon; click here for more information on the book and to download a sample chapter.