Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places

October 8, 2009 at 6:20 pm 11 comments

This Is Not Your Father’s Job-Seeking Market

Over the last few years there has been a radical shift in the job market.  The downturn in the economy has produced a flood of unemployed job-seekers at almost every level, and in almost every industry.  Anyone who has been out there looking for job recently has experienced an entirely new landscape requiring job-seeking strategies that differ from as recently as six months ago.

In the not so distant past, job-seekers posted their résumés on all the big job boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, etc.)  Then they searched those boards for appropriate jobs and responded by applying online.  Companies with openings posted their jobs, and gathered the best résumés from the respondents … and usually interviewed the ones who appeared to be the best fits.  If those applicants didn’t produce a winning candidate, companies often engaged 3rd party recruiters to produce even more candidates, some of whom were taken from those same job boards’ résumé banks, and others from the pool of “passive candidates” who were actually “recruited” from competitors.  (Remember when they were called “headhunters?”)  More often than not, someone got hired.

No so much anymore!  Things have changed big time.  Companies move slower and much more cautiously now, and have very different expectations.  Adding headcount in today’s tenuous climb to recovery is not done lightly.  While some people still do actually get hired by answering job postings, the current conventional wisdom is that only a very small percentage of new hires today are the result of someone applying online cold to a public job posting.  (I have no actual scientific data to back this up, or assign an actual percentage to it … but it does seem to be generally true.)  So how do the majority of jobs get filled today?  The answer given most often is that magic word:  “NETWORKING!”

The Networking Mantra

So how exactly does networking work, and how do people find jobs that way?  What I see many people do is follow a plan that looks something like this: meet with as many people as possible and talk with everyone you know or have any connection with:  start with your family, friends, neighbors, business associates, clients, former customers, school alumni, church/synagogue members, etc.  When you run out of personal connections, attend any of the big “networking events” that seem to be popping up all over the place.  Exchange business cards with strangers at those events who you can then set up meetings with and bring into your network.  Let everyone know you are “in transition,” and ask everyone if they have any advice for you, or if they know anyone who either has a job, or can lead you to someone else who has a job.  Make as many connections as possible on “LinkedIn” and keep expanding your own network exponentially.  Sooner or later, you’ll hear about that illusive job that won’t be posted anywhere, right?  You’ll get to that fabled “hidden job market,” right?

Networking with the Wrong People

There’s a basic flaw with the type of networking I’ve just described.  The problem I’ve observed is that many job-seekers end up spending a lot of time meeting with people who simply can’t help them, or have absolutely no connection to the industry or position that they are seeking.  They’d like to help you, but don’t know how!  They don’t have a clue specifically who you’d like to meet, or what companies you want to get into. Those big “networking events” (often held at hotels or bars) are attended mostly by other job-seekers!  Oh sure, it’s fun setting up meetings with those people and getting together for coffee.  Anyone who is semi-outgoing and sociable probably enjoys “networking” with friends, family members, or other job-seekers that they meet at those events.  Sharing war stories with other job-seekers about being out of work is somehow comforting, and certainly beats staying at home, right?  You fill your calendar with “networking meetings” and feel that you are somehow making progress … that you are doing the right things.  However, after all is said and done, has your networking gotten you any closer to a job?

Your Target List

Ask yourself this: how many of the people that you are networking with are actual decision-makers in your target companies – or people who can lead you to those decision-makers?  Every job-seeker should have a target list of companies that are specific to their industry niche, and are likely to have jobs that fit their background and experience.  Your goal should always be focused on getting in front of the people who are either decision-makers in those companies, or are directly connected to those decision-makers.  If you don’t have such a list of target companies, stop everything else and make one!!!!  This list is critical, and should be your road-map for moving forward on your job search.  [For details on how to go about creating a target list, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”] If you ever expect to “network” your way to a job, that target list is the best way to focus on meeting the right people and not wasting your time with the wrong people.  Show the list to everyone you meet.  Ask them if they know anyone in those companies connected to your niche.  Try to become selective about who you agree to spend time meeting with, and concentrate on people who might actually help you get into those targets.

Networking with the Right People

When you actually get to meet a decision-maker at one of your targets, don’t do a hard sell, or hand them a résumé and flat out ask for a job.  That will turn people off faster than a sleazy used car salesperson!  The approach should be the classic networking tactic:  “Since you are an expert in your field, I’d like to find out more about your background and experiences, and ask for your career advice and help.”  Flattering the person and simply asking for their advice and expertise is much more likely to score you points than sounding like a desperate job-seeker.  [For more ideas on how to approach the people on your target list, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”] Most decision-makers you’ll network with won’t have a job for you that day.  Your goal should be to simply have them get to know and remember you.  Show them your target list.  Don’t give them your résumé until the end of the meeting – almost as an after-thought (unless, of course, they ask for it sooner.)  They might know of an opening at another company, or be able to refer you to someone else at another target company on your list.  Or perhaps they’ll hear about a job elsewhere later, or a job will open up in their own company tomorrow, or next week, or next month.  You want them to know who you are, and most importantly to LIKE YOU and REMEMBER YOU!  It’s all about being in front of the right person at the right time.  Staying in touch over time, and following up on all referrals are also critical.  [Read “Following-Up: An Essential Key to Successs” for more on why this is such an important step.] That’s the way networking should work, and will be more likely to eventually produce results in today’s tough new job market.

Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , .

Answering the Dreaded Salary Question The Power of a Positive Attitude

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael Sigler  |  October 9, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Great advice. I have tried the other methods you describe and there is no question – while I meet a lot of great people, unless I am meeting with targeted contacts or people who can get me to the next level, I am spinning my wheels. Thanks for sharing!

  • 2. Liam  |  October 27, 2009 at 2:38 am

    Thanks for the advice clarifying how to do networking. I have had the same experience and, to tell you the truth, I have suspended activities in this area. I don’t live in the big city and it can get expensive going to networking meetings that have no result.

    Regarding the mythical 85% of jobs filled by networking that are never advertised. I am not convinced, for the following reasons:

    1. If there were 6 times as many jobs out there that were not advertised as there were advertised, networking activity alone would not be enough to fill them, which means that employers would have to go back to job boards and recruiters.

    2. If most jobs are filled through non visible channels such as networking, why do the visible channels exist at all? Many companies I have worked for in Prague, Czech Republic (that’s where I live) have recruitment bonuses for employees to recommend friends. It is cheaper for the companies to give those out than to pay recruiters. This looks like the networks are not very strong and the companies are trying to stimulate these activities, but in most cases, without much success.

    I suspect that the reality is that while some jobs are filled by networking, (it’s the cheapest way for the company to do it) this is one of a variety of ways for people responsible for recruitment to find suitable candidates. The sad truth is that, visible or invisible, there aren’t that many jobs out there yet and we all will have to keep battling through that storm until we land something or things get better.

    • 3. Gary  |  November 27, 2009 at 11:55 am

      Re: Regarding the mythical 85% of jobs filled by networking that are never advertised.

      I am not convinced, either, but I find it hard to pinpoint the exact reason I don’t believe this is true. I have never seen any “proof” of this. I also suspect that this statistic “might be” true for “generic” jobs (jobs that “anyone” can do), but not for jobs that require specific, extensive experience in a particular area (exception: “C-level” jobs are almost never advertised, and thus networking would be appropriate here). If I were a HR person looking to fill a position, I would certainly ask around (word of mouth) first, but in the end I would probably be forced to find another way to fill the position

  • 4. Jackie  |  November 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you for a very thought provoking article!!! I will be attending a networking event in about one week, with people that I believe could be of help in my transition. I am wondering (since this is only a two hour event) what would you suggest as the best use of my time? There is a published list of potential attendees, so I can identify professionals that are in a position to help. Where do I go from there? Any articles or books you could recommend? Thanks Michael for your help, and for spreading your expertise during this character building time.

  • 5. Marcela  |  November 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I am returning to the job seeking world following more than nine years of steady work with the same company. After reading the second paragraph I realized I am searching for work the wrong way. I have been two weeks now without a job – I can probably use that as an excuse, lack of experience in that area. I am glad I am reading this now and not two months later. I will make sure I save this one to my favorite and helpful sites. Thanks for shinning a light on this unknown but somehow promising path.

  • 6. MB  |  December 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    On the surface networking with other unemployed individuals may seem like a waste of time. However, if done correctly it can lead to finding work and possibly a job. However, like any networking opportunity you have to connect an stay in touch with the people that you meet. I was able to find out about a very good temporary agency in my area from a person that I met at a networking event.

    I was also introduce to Tweet-up events through a person that I met at a networking event for the unemployed.

    With so many avenues to pursue when looking for work having extra eyes and ears can help.

  • 7. Ronald  |  December 27, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks for the good aritcle about searching for a job in the new year. I lead a Career Transition group at my church and I will use this information to provide those out of work with this helpful information. I also read your other articles and will find them helpful.

  • 8. Anna  |  March 30, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Michael, thank you so much for posting this, as well as many other insightful topics!

    I never really liked those big networking events or job groups and you have validated my suspicions! I agree with the others about the ‘hidden job market.’ Although some of my networking contacts have told me about some positions, I usually end up finding them on the job boards or the company website.

  • 9. rosaria  |  July 17, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I really like your ideas expressed in your blog. Your blog is my front page at the moment so that I could read postings through.

  • 10. John  |  August 11, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Personally, things that have been experienced below as totally unclear and unfair are wished to never happen again preferably even when acting the best with reaching out and even with encountering other good from others:

    1. Usually being connected on FB (facebook) with a board member of a nonprofit and we always getting along well and she responding back to me at times after I leaving the organization, but suddenly out of nowhere and with no warning she blocking me on FB when everything would be fine and I’d reach out time to time to see what’s going on. Why do people like her act as such and burn bridges unprofessionally and as adults generating bad karma for themselves? Also, one co-worker who was an AmeriCorps Vista like me has never responded back to my texts after I taking the time to reach out to her after my Vista term and noticed we’re not FB friends anymore like during our Vista term and yet FB friends with 3 others from our workplace. This unfair stuff makes my blood boil and affects trust along with other instances below despite I being my best and kind with an interest in others.

    2. A gentleman at a previous organization who seems so popular, professional and likeable and who I was FB friends with even after leaving the organization, but he usually not responding back to most of my FB messages when just trying to reach out or even an email sharing a link. I can still see him on FB, but he made a setting where I can’t add him and shows we’re not FB friends anymore?

    3. Having met certain people at networking events with sensing mutual rapport and interest along with sincerity from them, but once I email them with a thanks and interest in them with staying in touch and seeing how I can help I don’t ever hear back despite various follow-ups over time. I recall how one committee member of the Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance offering me to send my resume to her regarding a job opening out of her own way, but once I did and thanked her I would never hear back despite follow-ups. It is respectful and decent if one mentions of staying in touch to actually respond back to the other party who has taken the time and for a person to at least have the decency to respond back and follow up after saying how he/she plans to help and offers to have the resume be sent.

    4. Noticed has been few people met at events even after sensing rapport and showing interest in them hearing “Sorry, I don’t share my personal contact information with anyone.” Why such needed to be said at the very beginning when meeting someone who could be a valuable networking contact and without giving a chance.

    • 11. Michael Spiro  |  August 11, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Most people view Facebook as a more personal and less professional networking destination (mostly for friends, family, social acquaintances, etc.) For business or professional networking, I would think that LinkedIn would be a much better place to concentrate your efforts.


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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for nearly 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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