So, You Want Me to Help You Find a New Job...?
I probably get two to three requests through my network for help in job searches each week. These asks come to me in a range of forms —referral from someone in my network, an email blast, or a personal entreaty for help. And if I can help the job seeker (or the enterprise), I will; talent is in such short supply these days so if I can match supply and demand, I’m more than happy to.
But what’s with the expectation that professionals with some modicum of career success are put on earth merely to locate great jobs?
Experts estimate that between 70-85 percent of positions are filled through networking. Applying for posted positions in the age of AI and social media is increasingly becoming a big dark hole for job seekers, especially for roles that don’t fit neatly into an algorithm.
Between 70-85 percent of positions are filled through networking.
My career path is living proof of networking’s power!! Looking back, in 10 roles only one came through a headhunter, and none through a job application. Referrals from my network have opened up opportunities that I never dared to consider, forcing me to develop capabilities that I did not know I had. As a result, I’ve had stints in big global banks, global consulting firms, private equity-sponsored businesses, started two companies, and consulted on my own with some of the world’s best brands; all of which were never part of my career plan starting out.
Like others in my shoes, I’m chuffed about my track record in paying it back. Over the course of the last decade or so, I must have helped a good 30 folks into really neat job opportunities. In that time, only two individuals have turned down positions offered to them, while attrition of my placements has been in the single digits. Like many others who have been around the block for a while, I’m very proud of the fact that I have a good sense of who will fit where. Like others, I get an absolute buzz when I matchmake successfully.
Our industry contacts also appreciate the introductions. Referrals are much more efficient and targeted than going through corporate recruitment processes. And if we have sufficient stature, our introduction and recommendation put the job seeker at the top of the list … or at least gives them a hearing s/he would not have otherwise had.
You’d think that with such a high percentage of what we refer to as professional jobs obtained through networking, there would be some implicit protocols in place. However, I’m constantly amazed at how some really smart, capable people don’t get it. in fact, I even published a poem about it last year:
He LinkedIn on Monday
Sent me his bio Tuesday
Referenced him on Wednesday
He got the job Thursday
Went dark on me Friday
Based upon what’s worked for me, here are my 10 tips for those who are convinced that effective networking fuels career opportunities. [Job seekers, take note!]
1. Strike up a relationship first.
It’s usually hard to make a referral when the first interaction is an ask. But it happens—particularly at conferences or when another colleague thinks you have a superlative network. We’re not in business to flip resumés; we look to maintain relationships with professional colleagues as part of a very vital community from which we derive great satisfaction. Get to know us and we’ll want to know—and help — you, too.
2. Keep in regular touch.
Without fail, several in my network only contact me when they’ve moved or are moving on from a role for whatever reason. In fact, one in my network contacts me every few years without fail, with a note that starts “Don’t fall off your chair.” It’s become a joke between us that’s amusing but really not funny. If the job seeker and the referrer have a current relationship, chances are that we’ll always be on the lookout for good roles for her/him. That’s what professional friends do.
3. Make the ask personal.
One of the people I admire most in my network blasts out a job spec religiously every few years. Her email, highly detailed about what she wants down to specifics about travel and comp, is most likely sent to her entire LinkedIn group. Not only do I find it rather cheeky, there’s no way I’ll take the time to read such a presumptuous impersonal communication I know is going to at least 100 people. Effective job search requires managing contacts with connections personally, not sending out demanding emails.
4. Forward a targeted CV that says what you are good at/what you want to do.
There are too many what I call “omni-CVs” floating around—those that cover all bases. It’s hard to introduce a job seeker when his/her resumé is designed to appeal to folks hiring from roles ranging from strategy to operations and all capabilities in between. Ask yourself what you really want to do —and are good at – in advance of asking for help, and don’t make the referring party parse through a CV that reads like the history of the western world.
5. Make sure each contact is constructive.
I know job searches are frustrating; lacking complete control of the process, job seekers find themselves alternately excited and depressed. But we can’t give you therapy. Calling up regularly to complain about progress or demanding more leads because the search isn’t going according to Hoyle isn’t constructive and puts folks like me off. Referrers are happy to help where we can, but we don’t play talent agent or career coach for a living.
6. Do sufficient research to understand who we really keep up with.
Yes, many of us, particularly those late in our careers, know a lot of folk and have inroads into a lot of companies. But some of our relationships are stale, or our contacts have moved on and are no longer helpful. Take the time to know what we are currently doing along with our job chronology. Asking for an intro into a company we worked for at least 15 years ago is an exercise in futility.
7. Solicit advice, not just introductions.
Referrers like me have a deep understanding of how to position, how to brand, and when and where to search. We see patterns; we can easily discern who’s a risk taker and can thrive within a startup, and who is a technocrat and better off in an individual contributor role. And we know how the companies in our respective industries work. For example, we know whether it’s safe to resign before or after a new position is secured. Don’t just look at us as postmen or women to whom you send your CV; ask for our opinion. With the benefit of experience, we can often help you run a more successful search.
8. Keep us informed.
We’re not compensated for matchmaking like headhunters. We put parties together because 1) we get psychic compensation; 2) we like helping others; and 3) we’ve all had a hand up from networking and want to pay it back. There’s nothing more annoying than making an introduction and then getting to learn it was successful via a change in a LinkedIn profile. Send a note or pick up the phone to give us an update without being asked. You never know when we can help you by speaking to the hiring officer with whom we connected you; we look sort of dumb when we don’t know what’s going on. C’mon friends—it’s not the done thing to ask for help, then forget about from whence it came.
9. Let us know how you get on once you are in a role.
Often, job seekers spend a lot of time with the referrer, then stop the contact cold when they nab a job. Whether we helped you into a role, or you found it through other sources, let us know how you are getting on. We’re happy that you landed and want to keep up with you.
10. Pay it back.
We don’t refer for money or fame; we do it because we’ve benefited, too. Relationships are all about quid pro quo. Ask us whether you can do anything for us; often, we’ll ask you to help others in the same boat or make a helpful introduction into your own network. Call us from time to time to check in; perhaps we want to establish a more enduring (not episodic) relationship. And there’s an ancillary benefit: We are more likely to keep you top of mind when x company calls looking for a talent like you.
With best wishes for career success.