Whether you’re doing it because you want a change, you’re starting out with your first “adult” job, or you are forced into job change for reasons beyond your control, for many, competing in the 2017 job market is a vast, often terrifying, unexplored frontier.
Searches through newspapers and journals to find Classified Ads was a norm of the 20th century, but a person typically needed to either subscribe to these publications or sit for hours in local public libraries to peruse stacks of paper to locate positions of interest. Today we have Search Engine Optimization to help us find as many as 30,000+ job boards [Source: glassdoor], where companies are able to post available positions; a much quicker method to search for and locate jobs in literally any country, community or company around the world. But knowing how to complete an online application, developing and using a unique calibrated resume for every job posting, and actually getting an interview is more complicated than ever before.
According to the Summer 2016 Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, the time it takes between a job appearing on a job board and the first response by a job seeker is only 200 seconds—3.3 minutes. And the number of people applying for the same job? Sometimes as many 500 to 1000 people…or more, depending upon the job.
So how in the world is a person to compete in this type of aggressive job market? While easy for some and more difficult for others, the answer is networking.
Statistics tell us that we are all connected to each other with as few as only six people (or six referrals) between us. Let’s think about this 6° of separation for a moment…
Contrary to what some job seekers believe, getting a job is not based on who you know and how he or she might get you into a new position at a company. While this does happen on occasion, true networking is made up of personal relationships with peers and the extended networks of those individuals who, through getting to know you learn about your personal interests, values, personality preferences, and skills, become allies with you. Doesn’t this sound like Merriam-Webster’s definition? “The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions.”
Having a healthy professional network means having people in your life who know enough about you to talk about you with people in their own personal and professional circles of friends and networks, or to introduce you to individuals in their networks—thereby expanding your own network to include many variations of networks. True networking means being actively engaged in the lives of other people.
You are not networking during job search by sitting at home reading about jobs, talking on the phone or texting with peers to complain about how hard it is to job search, or commiserating about poor job market conditions. Not finding a new job is not because of your age, the color of your skin or body shape. Yes, these are sometimes isolated factors but they are not insurmountable when you have a good network of professional peers and others who know you for who you are. Not finding a job is the result of not talking to other people to learn about their jobs and how they decided to do the work they do, or why they no longer do something they enjoyed 10 years ago but don’t enjoy today.
Communicating with other people allows you to learn about company personalities, the what, why and where of jobs people within your network hold and how they got to where they are. Networking helps you learn about yourself by learning about others.
Networking is allowing first degree contacts (family, existing friends, teachers, insurance reps and the guy working in the local grocer’s produce market) know that you want to learn more about what they do, why they do it and with whom they can connect you to help you learn more about yourself, the local economy, what employers are doing well, which ones are moving into a geographical area, expanding, and which ones are moving out or closing shop. Without other people in your life with whom you can network during a job search, you are working in a vacuum and are likely getting sucked up by negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are capable of being emotionally and sometimes physically dangerous to your personal short- and/or long-term career growth.
BUT WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW ANYONE OUTSIDE OF MY FAMILY OR IMMEDIATE GROUP OF FRIENDS?
Use social media to make new contacts and develop new relationships with peers and future peers, whether professional or based on other interests, hobbies, of unique activity participation. Through social sites like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and others, you can develop new friendships or short-term relationships through direct contact. LinkedIn, and now Google, along with sites like LocalsNetworking, Doostang, or Plaxo to name only a few, are excellent ways to find people who share your professional interests, educational pursuits, or other personal traits. Then reach out to them with a personal invitation to connect and potentially meet so you can learn more about each other.
Get out there. If you can, take classes to meet new people and get to know each other mutually. Go to meet up groups and clubs where you’ll find people who share a variety of interests or skills with you. Participate in job-search support, transition, and networking groups—but don’t make the mistake that simply attending these events means you are actually “networking”. You must be making eye contact and doing something memorable, like striking up a conversation that leads to meaningful connectedness.
BUT I’M AN INTROVERT. I DON’T LIKE TO BE AROUND OTHER PEOPLE SO NETWORKING IS OUT…
Don’t give yourself permission or allow someone else to tell you that Introversion is holding you back. You may have an introverted personality preference, but Introversion is a trait, and it’s about where you get your energy with respect to being around and interacting with other people. People who are Extroverted get their energy from being around other people, but not all Extroverted are extraverted or social; some are shy or inhibited, and they prefer not to interact with others even though they enjoy exchanging energy with many people at a time. Shyness, which is often confused as Introversion, is a learned behavior that can result in poor or awkward social skills. As any other behavior that might hold you back from reaching your full potential, shyness can make it more difficult for you to meet and get to know people—and to build your network. Don’t hide behind excuses. If you are inhibited or shy, seek help from close friends and family, and active members of your working network, or even a counselor or coach if necessary. Learn how to communicate with others. Learn how to feel confident in allowing others to get to know you.
Networking, especially for those who lean toward Introversion, can be an extensive exertion of energy. But no matter the reason that may be preventing you from truly networking, the barriers can be overcome and effective networking can be achieved. It is imperative that you develop, nurture, and use an ever-evolving working network of your own making to become part of the 83% of job seekers who successfully find that one person who is their 6th degree of relationship distance from their next job opportunity. That’s right…as of 2016, Forbes reported that 83% of all secured jobs come through effective networking.
Allow yourself to actively engage in networking. Through new people and new experiences come new perspectives, new knowledge, and new opportunities you may never know are right in front of you. Don’t miss life-long advantages by 200 seconds, or waiting for someone to give your resume 6 seconds of time to determine whether or not you’re the right person for a particular job.
Author: KimAileen White
For more than 25 years, KimAileen White has helped individuals and businesses create and implement transition plans and strategies that work to assist displaced employees move into new employment opportunities. Providing customized on-site, day-of-termination counseling and extensive job-search support to exiting employees reduces the potential for workplace violence, and demonstrates the employer’s sensitivity to the co-workers left behind when a position is suddenly vacated. To learn more, visit KimAileen’s LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/kimaileenwhite, or visit her company’s website at www.whitestonepersonalmarketing.com.