Why Bother Networking?
From Career Tips, 2015 Volume 12, December
Before we can get into how to network really effectively, we need to address the elephant in the room: why bother with networking in the first place?
After all, everyone is busy. People barely have time to take a lunch break, so why would they expend valuable time with someone who is just there looking for a job? It takes such an effort, and it's going to be an uphill battle.
On the other hand, there are tons of job sites and company websites with postings that can keep you busy full time applying to actual openings, so why not just do that?
Think about it this way:
How many people know about posted openings?
Pretty much everyone with a computer.
How many responses are likely being generated by a known opening?
This will vary with the specialization of the position requirements, but typically it's in the hundreds (or more).
How many of those responses are getting forwarded to the hiring manager for a possible interview?
This is where the screening process comes into play. Company practices vary widely, but it's the gatekeeper's job to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager, and to only pass on the cream of the crop. My own experience is that it's typical for this to be in the 10-20 range.
And the hiring manager is then going to decide with which to schedule interviews. So that hiring manager may schedule, say, the first 5, and then only consider the others if the position is still open.
Given that hit rate, you are likely going to have to send out hundreds of applications just to get a handful of interviews. And given the competitiveness of the process, how many of those interviews will you need to actually land a job?
One successful job seeker who concentrated on that approach reported to me that over the course of 2 years he sent out 2600 résumés to get 15 actual interviews to ultimately receive 2 job offers.
So just how much of your time does it make sense to spend on the direct application process?
I recommend NO MORE THAN 1 HOUR PER DAY. Spend the rest of your time actually out there meeting people, face to face wherever possible. Build a network of people in your target area who know you and what you bring to the table, who are well-equipped to speak on your behalf as they hear about possibilities, and who introduce you to others who can do the same.
This will give you the chance to get known by the right people in advance of those postings, and create advocates when appropriate openings arise. It will arm you with market research. It will give you the chance to practice your pitch, your stories and answers to various questions, so that you can be very sharp in an actual interview.
Here's a quote from Martin Lieberman in his article Uncovering The Hidden Job Market on the Experience.com website:
"With so many web sites featuring job postings these days, it's easy to think that the only jobs available are the ones being advertised but that's just the tip of the iceberg. According to statistics, 80 percent of all jobs are never advertised; they are filled through networking, inside contacts, and word-of-mouth."
Now I'm not trying to convince you that 80% is the right number, but even if it were as low as 50%, can you afford to be missing out on half the pool of potential positions by focusing your efforts primarily on postings?
Now we can put all sorts of gremlins in our heads to keep us from networking, and I won't claim it's a cake walk. However, I started out as a classic introvert, and went into a profession that has a strong reputation for being filled with introverts (the actuarial profession), so if I could learn to be a master networker, I guarantee you can become effective at it.
Next time, we'll start to get into the secrets. If you want some reading to help set the stage, catch up on Part 1 of my series on Building Influence.