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Applying for Jobs

Dear Career Tips: Applying For Jobs Doesn't Work

From Career Tips, 2020 Volume 8, August 2020


Endless Tunnel
Photo by Shapelined on Unsplash

I am a mechanical engineer with 40 years of experience; I worked hard, solved many problems, didn't get too much recognition because employers think that is the reason to pay a salary for a job, but I have acquired a lot of experience, knowledge and skills in this process.


Fast forward, today I am unemployed, and want to get back working after one year of being on the side lines.


I have been applying for jobs in an easy commute range and didn't move forward to get a job offer. Maybe employers are looking for younger folks, male mechanical engineers, and I don't fit the formula.


I am convinced that in the future, there will be a need for mechanical engineers to restart the economy on the right footing, and experienced people will be needed, either as contractors or permanent employees, but that may take a while. I don't think that the 'golden resume' is going to make a big impact when there are 200+ candidates for each posted job, and lower hierarchy connections generally avoid vouching for a candidate in their company.


Besides waiting and being patient, what else can I do, please?


Dear Waiting:


I think you answered your own question, though perhaps you didn't realize it:

"I don't think that the 'golden resume' is going to make a big impact

when there are 200+ candidates for each posted job"


That's absolutely true, especially so when you have something that others might perceive as a flaw (eg, older; out of work for a year). It is very difficult to get through the screening process no matter how good your package, and flaws just up the ante that much more. And it always has been that way.


I had one person write to me, so proud of the effort he had been putting into his search and how it paid off. He sent off at least 25 applications every week, and it took him 2 years to land. Plus the place he landed turned out to be one where he had an internal advocate - someone who had worked for him previously. So, had he put that effort into setting up one-on-one meetings with all of his connections, he might have landed in 2 months instead of 2 years.


I wonder if you may be missing some of the point of networking, though, from this statement:


"lower hierarchy connections generally avoid vouching for a candidate in their company."


The point of networking is to:

  • get as many people as possible, especially in your target companies, equipped to know what you want, and
  • to know exactly why you would be a great asset in that role (concrete results achieved and challenges solved), and
  • to build a relationship that gets them engaged with your search.


The point is not to ask them to vouch for you, it's to get them equipped to be able to if the circumstances arise, and to WANT to do it - to volunteer it. If you have to ask, then you aren't doing a good job getting them engaged.


Those people do not need to be at higher levels in the organization, although obviously you also want as many higher-level people as you can to be in that position as well.


Lower hierarchy connections are very valuable, as they:

  • can give you insights into the issues faced by the company, the personalities of the team and the culture, so that you are so much better prepared when you actually do meet with a higher-level connection, and
  • can introduce you to others in the organization. (This requires that you focus on the relationship and equipping them, not on job openings.)


If your focus is only on getting introductions to hiring managers who have job openings, that is not a good approach. It's much better for those hiring managers or their bosses to know, like and trust you BEFORE they ever have an actual posted job opening.


If they happen to have or are considering creating an opening, but the conversation is not directly about that, you give them the chance to get so excited about you and what you could do for them that THEY turn it into a conversation about a possible job.


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