Don’t misunderstand the title of this blog. It’s not about sexual preference. It’s about networking. Every morning, when I take my walk, I observe groups of teenagers waiting at street corners for their school buses. Two things are common to these groups. The kids are not talking to each other, and the majority of them have their ears plugged with MP3 players. They choose to live in total isolation despite the fact that these are the same kids who mingle with each other every day.
Now, why is this? Because in the American culture—in contrast with other cultures—one is not to approach another person until the two have been introduced to each other by a third party. This cultural habit is practiced by adults, and therefore their kids perpetuate it. In many cases, even after being introduced to someone, the kids lack the confidence or skills to communicate, connect, and possibly be of mutual benefit. Plainly put, to network with each other.
For people in transition, such behavior amounts to a tactical hindrance to their advancement toward getting a job. It’s commonly known that 60 to 80 percent of job seekers get their next jobs via networking. However, if lack of communication is practiced from childhood and if communications skills never get developed or encouraged to improve on later on in life—especially in times of need such as being in transition and letting the world know about your availability—that’s of course a major obstacle.
More and more people nowadays are letting me know they have landed. This is a very encouraging sign, indicating that companies have started hiring again. I always ask what led to the job offer, and invariably, the answer proves two things: first, that the lead came through networking, and second, that the person had prepared extensively for the interview. After all, winning in a tough competition takes not only skills but lots of practice. Have you ever thought how many hours an Olympian practices before the competition?
As a career coach who sees people in transition every day, I’ve concluded that the single biggest obstacle for people in transition is not knowing what they don’t know regarding what it takes to win that fierce competition for getting a decent job.
I don’t intend to blame anyone; I’m merely pointing out the fact. When people become part of the in-transition crowd, they also become numb and find themselves in a state of disbelief. Given some time, reality sets in and they know that family priorities and financial obligations need to be met, so they step out from their shells and attempt to become productive.
They remember from the previous job search the steps needed to be taken to get a job offer. Regrettably, though, the rules of the game have changed–and so drastically that the old rules are no longer valid in any sense. For instance, technology has advanced to the point that the job search game is almost totally dependent on it. Plus, résumés are constructed differently from the way they used to be. They need to be tailored to the specific job the person is applying for.
LinkedIn is the most common electronic tool used by recruiters. A poor image on LinkedIn kicks a candidate out of the competition. And there’s where the problem starts. As I said at the beginning, job seekers don’t know what they don’t know, and so it follows that they don’t know how to improve their condition. What is evident is that it seems to take forever to get an interview–if at all. And then the competition among interviewees is fierce. Only one person of very many is offered the job; the rest feel like losers, and typically, they’re not told why they didn’t get an offer.
So, what’s the solution? My advice is to seek help. There are many job search networking groups that hold meetings where speakers are brought in to provide information pertinent to job search. In addition, job seekers who attend such meetings exchange information with each other, and there often is support by career coaches and counselors. Approach a career coach at a networking meeting to learn what he or she can do for you. You’ll probably get answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask! A current–and comprehensive–list of such groups within a 100-mile radius of New York can be downloaded from Web site www.landingexpert.com via the Networking tab.
Becoming unemployed is likely a sudden, unexpected event, and most people do not have the networking skills needed to immediately switch gears and begin efficiently developing job leads. There could be many reasons: feeling uncomfortable with the networking process, not knowing the process, being shy by nature, or never having needed to network in the past. Unfortunately, people in transition need to resort to networking, because it has been found that 60 to 80 percent of people are getting their next jobs via networking.
The purpose of job-search networking is to cultivate relationships to lean on for getting advice, information, leads, and–it is hoped–referrals. The objective is to expand your sphere of personal connections. Certainly, whom you know is important, but in this instance, equally or possibly even more important is who knows you. After all, you’re the one looking for a next job.
Networking is a learned skill. And it’s not necessary to be Mr. or Ms. Personality in order to be successful at it. Networking also involves consulting people who can list the search tools and strategies that have worked for them in past; people like telling their especially success stories. Involve people in building your own search tools. Try to unfold the hidden job market–the positions that have not yet been advertised or that won’t ever be. That’s the reason they’re called hidden.
While networking, be considerate, genuine, and timely so that people will be willing to lend a hand. Smiling–smiling a lot–is very effective while networking. Genial body language coveys that you are friendly and are enjoying your relationship with the other person. Who wants to be associated with a Sorrowful Sue or a Negative Ned? It’s a big enough burden just to be in transition, and others usually don’t want to hear about someone else’s problems. You need to project a friendly and helpful image of yourself: Let the other person talk. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Exchange contact information and agree to follow up within a day or two. Keep the momentum going. By being a good networker, you increase your chances of getting a job severalfold.