There are two main ways into employment (obviously) – through the advertised vacancies in the media, or through the unadvertised vacancies – through networking and referrals. Contrary to what some people think, the unadvertised vacancies outweigh the advertised vacancies by a significant number, so if we exclude networking, we exclude a significant avenue of exposure to the market place.
The other aspect of networking is that people who are referred through networks get to leverage off the reputation of the referrer for a foot in the door – you may not be significantly better than any other applicant might have been but because “Bob” or “Mary”, who have their own great reputation, say you are worth interviewing, you make it onto the shortlist.
If you, like I was, are a stranger in a new country, you have nothing to leverage off. And this is the same dilemma faced by new entrants to the workplace. So, how do you create a network from scratch?
There are a few things you must and mustn’t do:
- Get on social media like Twitter and Linked in, and discover groups relating to the companies and careers you are interested in. Read discussions and comment methodically and carefully, with well researched and thought out perspectives. This gets your name and some first impressions out there.
- If you are confident enough to post entire articles or start discussions, do that. But try not to post articles that demonstrate a lack of skill or proactivity – you know, the “How do I get work in _____?” articles.
- Avoid like the plague, any negative or critical postings.
- Be very careful with your social media presence – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, everything. “Googling” a candidate is now common practice in the hiring process. If you want a good reputation, build it carefully and thoroughly, and realise you cannot separate social and work on social media. Who you are is who you are. It all counts.
- Meet people. In the context of work, try and make a personal connection with someone senior in your field, especially if they have shown that they care about other people enough to take some time out for a newcomer. Respect it if they don’t or can’t, but try until you succeed. There is always a degree of empathy for someone starting out. And – most importantly – a degree of respect for someone being proactive and sincere.
- If those people you meet like you, they will be prepared to stay connected. But the responsibility is yours to stay engaged without stifling them. Remember it is a privilege to be connected, not a right. And it is a person’s right to offer you access to their network or not; and their right to offer you their reputation and/or credibility in assisting with your pursuit of a job. Never take those things for granted.
- Remember that networks rely on a quid pro quo. However kind, generous and available someone is, remember this and never take it for granted. If you just take, you will quickly be sidelined and lose privileges. A network is an investment and a commitment, and not just a magical fountain of opportunity laid on for your benefit.
- Remember to say thank you – every time – and to give credit where credit is due. Respect the network and it will respect you.
The direct job-search is the way into the advertised positions.
It is not exclusive of networking, especially networking with Recruitment consultants who also use networking to create a database of desirable candidates. Networking with recruitment consultants is more straightforward, and less quid pro quo, shall we say, but it still requires a great deal of effort and respect. The key with recruiters is that you need to very proactively maintain your profile with them and stay active on their radar. If they don’t hear from you, they will quite reasonably assume you have found work.
- Advertisers filter their positions by a salary range, whether you see it or not. Remuneration levels are usually closely connected with seniority, experience, and credibility, and are a natural filter for approximately the right level of candidate. Respect that, and do not apply for positions too low or too highly remunerated, unless you can REALLY bring something unique to the party that will justify it.
- Feel free to contact the recruiter or the company for more information. Ask intelligent questions, and show that you have gone the extra mile in the documents you submit. “As we discussed in my phone call…” or “Thanks for our conversation on __/__ “are great reminder sentences in a cover letter. You will stand out, because not many people do this!
- Do not apply for everything you see. Bombing the market is a sure sign of desperation, and you will get known for it, especially in a smallish locality. Choose your roles carefully, and apply rigorous standards to this. Show that you have discernment and restraint, by avoiding showing that you do not have it.
- If you apply for something well outside your demonstrated areas of expertise, realise that you must show proactively that you are not wasting everyone’s time. You are asking them to take a second look, at a deeper level to find the additional synergies, for this position, that you believe are obvious. Do the work in your cover letter, and help them see why you are applying for it.
- Do your research, prepare your CV and customise your cover letters individually
- Be prompt with correspondence, confirmations, replies and appointments. You get one change to make a good first impression. One.
- Accept rejections with grace and strength, and always with a written thank you. Again, you will stand out for this courtesy.