With unemployment at 8.2% as of March 2012, many Americans find themselves relying on the same unsuccessful job hunting tactics. Recent graduates are stuck looking for work in an extremely saturated job market where supply is high and demand is low. So what makes one candidate stand out from another? When I entered the workforce in the summer of 2009, I applied online for every job I could find and unfortunately didn’t hear back from any of them. But I also went to every career fair I could find, had a few on campus interviews and networked with every one I came in contact with.
Ultimately, I was hired by an engineering firm through a contact I had made at a birthday party(very random!). In tough economic times, it would make sense to hire the most qualified people. However, I have clearly seen the opposite. Companies are hiring more and more based off networking than ever. The most qualified person doesn’t always get hired. Managers tend to hire people they trust, people they can get along with, or people that have been recommended to them.
Proactive vs. Reactive
A lot of people tend to post their resumes on sites like Monster and Careerbuilder and wait for a response. Posts on these sites breed ‘job search contempt’ and laziness. Many people consider posting their resume as looking for a job. Employers do not rely solely on these sites; why would they? They look for people they trust, and often turn to things like employee referrals and recommendations.
The internet can help when used in conjunction with networking and career fairs. But it should never be your sole weapon when looking for a job. You are often competing with hundreds of other people for just a few positions. Make yourself stand out by going above and beyond the bare minimum.
Make Networking a Priority
I did a recent informal study at my company among 8 new employees, and all 8 of them had been referred by current employees or family friends of employees! I know this won’t always be the case, but think about it from a manager’s point of view. Would you rather go with a more qualified employee who may ruin the chemistry of your team? Or would you prefer someone who will seamlessly integrate with your current employees and not disrupt the work of anyone else.
5 Awesome Networking Tips:
- Keep a contact list of everyone you come across, no matter how brief your interaction is.
- If you only have a contact’s name, try to figure out what format their company uses for email. For example, my company uses ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ for everyone’s default e-mail.
- Build trust and relationships before asking for help.
- Join volunteer organizations and groups in your field.
- Send a quick and genuine e-mail to anyone you meet. That way, if you need to e-mail them in the future, they should already have your e-mail saved in their archives.
I keep an electronic list of every contact I’ve ever made in the engineering field. And what I consider my field is extremely broad. However, I doubt that someone I met three years ago at a lecture would be willing to help me right off the bat. If faced with this situation, I would send a quick note recapping our initial meeting: when we met, how we met, what was discussed. More than likely, these types of contacts won’t remember you, but once you develop an initial connection with them, they may respond by offering to help. If not, the second time you contact them(maybe a couple weeks, or months later), would be the right time to ask for help.
Am I missing anything? Are there better ways to network or have you had success with job sites like Monster and Careerbuilder?
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