Elaine and I have both experienced the misery that comes with the online job hunt (see above photo): we had the cover-letter writing down, practically memorized our resumes from sending them out so much, and were filled with expectation and hope that the interviews would come rolling in any day.
“We should reinforce our doors because of how many opportunities will come knocking” – us, probably, as we wrote our 20th cover letter.
At the end of the day, the online hunt was not fruitful; we got our jobs through leveraging our personal networks. This is unsurprising considering the following information from Forbes.
At the end of 2012, there were 3.6 million job openings. Of these openings, it is estimated that 80% were never advertised. You read that right – 80%! Of the jobs that were advertised, 50% of applications were weeded out using hiring software, and at the end of the day only 20% of applicants were interviewed. With odds like this, it’s no surprise that the job search was more challenging than we expected. So what are we to do?
The not-so-secret key to success is networking
Pause to consider the number of people you are connected with on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Of those people, it is likely that some are working in a field that you would like to be in. They may be friends who have done an internship at a company you find interesting, or maybe they are graduates from the same university as you who have gone on to do something cool. Now think beyond those people and conceptualize the people they know, maybe a past manager or a friend of a friend who is connected to a place you would like to be. Your small personal network grows exponentially when you consider the power of your extended network.
Wouldn’t it be easier if these people could help do some of the job hunting work for you? This is where the concept of referral becomes important.
Studies show that referral candidates are hired faster in the interviewing process, are more likely to stay longer at a company, and report greater job satisfaction. Referrals are beneficial to you as a candidate because they allow you to receive an inside scoop on what it’s really like to work somewhere, and beneficial to your employer because a referral is much like a pre-emptive reference for your performance.
So now the question is: how do you start USING your connections effectively to get what you are looking for?
The real key to success is to let your intentions be known
Elaine’s current life mantra is “let your intentions be known”. As the human race has not yet evolved to develop the ability of mind reading, communicating your goals to others makes it a lot easier for them to help you achieve them.
Patty McCord, Netflix’s former Chief Talent Officer, says that the job hunt often goes beyond “what you know” and even “who you know”. Rather, it’s all about WHO knows WHAT you know (HBR Ideacast). Think of it this way: if you’ve made your intentions known to someone in your network, and they’re aware of your skills and abilities, they are now able to keep an eye out for that perfect opening that would suit your talents. Further, it gives them the ability to pass on your qualifications to someone in their network that may also have leads for you.
When I was job hunting, I initially found it challenging to ask my friends for help and connections. I thought I would come off as needy, or that it would mean I wasn’t capable of looking for employment on my own. Luckily, I came to my senses and realized that this mindset is inaccurate and unproductive; if the roles were reversed, of course I would do my best to facilitate what they needed to succeed.
“Ask not what your network can do for you, ask what you can do for your network” -JFK, or someone
Your network at large is like a bank. When needed, you can withdraw knowledge, support, and advice. In times of surplus, you can deposit your experience, assistance, and encouragement; when you invest these currencies in your network, know that they will bring great returns for the future.
As young professionals, we are more often withdrawing from our network as we learn skills and gain experience from opportunities. This is okay. The opportunity to “pay it forward” will come up sooner than you may expect.
Do you have big goals and dreams? Have you made your intentions known to your network? Let us know in the comments below!
Olivia is a project manager at a mechanical engineering consulting firm for the food industry in Toronto, ON. Her job is like a behind-the-scenes episode of How It’s Made, and includes free samples on good days if she’s lucky. Outside of engineering, she is an avid thrift shopper, has a strong affinity to corgis, and is passionate about advocating for women in STEM and diversity in the work place.