Social Networking vs Real Networking
In any job market finding a good job is all about who you know. Sure for some jobs you need certain credentials to be able to apply or get an interview but who you know trumps most any other external factors to you getting a good job. In the age of technology that we live in there is a minimum amount of face-to-face interaction between people. This technology doesn’t make it easier for you to build a network no matter what people lead you to believe.
Why do I need a good network to find a good job?
Job search sites such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, TheLadders.com, etc are just tools to help you locate available jobs. A good network is what is going to get you a good job. A good network can help you locate jobs that are not on the grid yet and haven’t made it up on one of these job search sites. It’s a lot easier to get a job when you are competing with a small select group of people vs thousands who stumbled upon a job via keyword search. Plus no longer is it only important to have desirable credentials on your resume but now you are required to know people that can back you as a reference. Jobs that don’t require references generally don’t fall under the category of good jobs.
Why are virtual social networks inefficient for purposes of beneficial networking vs real connections with real people?
Social networks are not as effective for networking as good old fashion talking with real people in real life. Sure Facebook or Myspace may help you re-connect with people you have lost touch with or old flames but how important are these connections to your real life? On Facebook you can be friends with people who you don’t know well or at all in some cases. This is not to say Facebook is useless but virtual friendships are far different than real life friendships. Someone you haven’t spoke to in years won’t feel vested in helping you out in the same way that a real friendship would harness. Actual face-to-face interactions with people are the key to a network of worth. Worthwhile connections are not established through emails, text messages, Facebook status updates and instant messages.
How do I build a network that is going to help me find a job?
This should be a given but talk to people. Talk to everyone; take any opportunity available to you to make a connection. Don’t be choosy when deciding who to interact with because you never know who is going to be able to help you. It might turn out that the person you talked with is not of direct benefit to you but they may know someone who can directly help you.
Example: In the last few months working at the gas station brought me in contact with people who hail from all walks of life and experiences. I realized that if I wanted to get away from the gas station I needed help. In this job market I was willing to put myself out there and try to make connections with everyone I encountered at the station that gave me the time of day. I started to learn names and make acquaintances. I was pointed in the direction of possible job openings that weren’t yet released to the public as well as information to use people as an employee reference. When I saw the useful bits of information I gleaned from random interactions I decided it was time to try this approach with everyone I meet. This includes other gas station attendants, gym employees and even pizza delivery guys.
What kind of information should I be looking for?
First and foremost you shouldn’t be digging at people you just met but if you establish rapport with these people then there are certain things you should be paying close attention for:
1) Ideas for career direction.
2) If they know anyone who may be hiring.
3) Whether this person is just having small talk or if they cross into real conversation.
At the point where conversations are no longer small talk you can start honing in on whether this person may be able to provide a reference or referral.
What do I do with my newly discovered information?
The key is to exploit new found knowledge. If business A has a job opening that has not gone mainstream you can call and inquire about it anyway. It is assumed by you calling and asking about it you have been referred by a current employee of the company. Even though you may have found out about the job opening through a casual conversation with the pizza guy who just happened to deliver a pie to business A yesterday for an office party. If you build up sufficient rapport with people you meet then you can always ask for their information to use them as a direct employee referral. Then when you go to apply you put this information on your application. The only warning about this is you probably only want to utilize an employee referral if you think that the referral is going to be from an above average employee. An employee referral on your application is not going to be of much benefit if you know that the employee referral is coming from an employee the company is probably considering laying off.
The take home message is talk to everyone. Do NOT make assumptions about people or assumptions about their “use” to you. You may be surprised at who out there is willing to give you a hand in this job market. No two people think alike so maybe not everyone you meet is going to hook you up with a job but the potential to glean ideas you had never imagined is a real possibility.