Must I “kiss ass” to get a job?

Must I “kiss ass” to get a job?

Question

My husband is a recent college graduate in need of a professional job. He’s had a couple of possibilities, but no offers or anything.

I know what the problem is. He’s going about it the old-fashioned way, by applying for “available” jobs he finds via the Internet. He dutifully fills out applications and sends resumes to places advertising jobs. Obviously he needs to get on the networking ball, but he’s having a difficult time with it, for two reasons.

First, he thinks it’s wrong. He wants to get a job on his merits, not because he “knows somebody.” He wants to feel like he earned the job by being competent, not by being the best ass-kisser or because somebody’s brother’s cousin’s friend has some pull with the company owner’s daughter’s dog groomer. I don’t know what to say to him about this, because I happen to agree. It feels like, at least in the current climate, success in a job search has relatively little to do with your actual ability to do the job.

Second, and this is the part I’d like your help with, it’s really a downright unpleasant thing to have to do. Calling up everyone you know, begging for a job and asking them to beg for you to everyone they know. I think it would be easier to ask people for money, frankly.

How do people do it? Do you reward yourself with a treat every time you make an icky phone call? Imagine your “contact” in nothing but their skivvies? Risk sinking into multiple personality disorder by dissociating yourself from the entire process?

Help, please!

Nick’s Reply

get a jobI understand your husband’s hesitation and his attitude, because I was a new college grad once. However, he is absolutely, positively, completely wrong.

It’s easy to assume that “who you know” is a corrupt way to get a job. The truth is, companies hire people they know because they’re less likely to encounter problems with “people they know.”

Need to get a job? We hire who we know.

A V.P. at a successful company explained it to me many years ago.

“We hire using our company’s ‘people filter’. We hire only people who are referred by our employees and by people we know. This assures us that we’re getting good people, because why would our friends and employees refer turkeys? It assures us that the new hire will work hard, because if she doesn’t it would reflect poorly on the employee who referred her. And, we are assured that the new hire will get lots of help and support — it’s a kind of guaranteed on-the-job-training.”

Know what? That V.P. doesn’t hire people just because they “know someone.” Good companies will still examine a highly-recommended candidate carefully. They will look at your skills and abilities, and hire you only if you’re right for the job. A good company won’t hire a turkey whose only credential is that she “knows someone.” But, that people filter is what gets a candidate in the door, and it’s what seals a relationship if all other criteria are met.

We don’t hire resumes or turkeys

You are worried that “success in a job search has relatively little to do with your actual ability to do the job”. Step back a minute. How is your husband demonstrating his ability to do the job? By sending employers a document with his name and credentials on it? Do you really think that convinces anyone he can do the job?

Contrast this with a candidate who talks to that dog groomer, who in turn introduces the candidate to a friend whose father owns the company. The friend talks with the candidate, satisfies herself that the candidate is talented, then refers the candidate to her dad, who refers them to a manager who is hiring. I’ll take that dog groomer over a scrap of paper any day — and so will most hiring managers.

When you send a company your resume, you’re not demonstrating anything. All you’re saying is, “Here are my credentials, all typed up nicely. Now, you go figure out what the heck to do with me.” Employers are lousy at hiring from resumes. A personal contact is your opportunity to actually show what you can do — it’s your opportunity to demonstrate your value and to suggest how you will help the company. (This won’t work if you’re a turkey!)

We trust our icky contacts

Your husband needs to get over this. (And so do you.) If you don’t follow my logic, consider this. Companies pay headhunters lots of money to deliver the very best candidates for a job. A $100,000 position will yield a $30,000 fee. Do you know why companies pay that kind of money? Because they don’t want to waste time with thousands of resumes of people they don’t know. They want the personal referrals of the headhunter. They’re paying handsomely for those icky contacts.

When you develop relationships that gain you a personal referral, you’re being your own headhunter. You see, companies don’t hire people they know in order to do a favor for someone. They hire people they know because of the trust factor. They’re simply more likely to get a good hire from someone they know.

Trust: Get a job without icky

Developing professional contacts is crucial to success. If you regard it as icky, then you’ve got the wrong idea entirely. Is it dishonest or immoral to make an effort to meet people who do the work you want to do? Is it ass-kissing when you call people in your field to discuss their business and to learn how you can make a contribution to their industry? Is it unpleasant to take a step into your chosen line of work — or is it just uncomfortable because you don’t know how to do it? (Please check Natural Networking: An end to stupid networking.)

If your husband can’t get comfortable talking to people about the work they do (and the work he wants to do), then I can’t help him. He’s going to have to learn the hard way.

Here’s the risk he takes. If he gets hired strictly on the basis of a blind resume submission, the odds that he will have the support and attention he needs to succeed are much smaller than if he gets hired through a personal contact. My friend the V.P. devotes lots of time to help his new hires succeed because he’s beholden to the people who referred the candidate — there’s personal responsibility and trust involved. You see, it works both ways: personal contacts yield good hires for employers, and they yield the best opportunities for job hunters.

Don’t kiss anything to get a job. Networking must not be icky. It should be a natural, satisfying experience of getting to know good people in your field — and helping them get to know you.

I wish you and your husband the best.

What’s your take on networking and using personal referrals to get a job? Maybe more important, why do so many people think networking is “icky?” Is networking a skill, or an attitude?

: :

How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

How to Get A Job Workshop

For several editions, we’re devoting the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” This week we continue with How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody! I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: Network? I don’t know anybody!

how to get a job networkEvery survey ever done shows that the single most successful path to a new job is personal contacts. Yet, time and again people complain to me that they just don’t know anybody who can help them gain entry to a particular company.

And that’s flat-out wrong.

Welcome to your new network

I’m going to enumerate some of the many people you know who can help you.

  • The reporter who wrote the story about the company you want to work for.
  • The manager featured in the article about how that company beat profit projections.
  • The friend whose friend works in the marketing department of your target company.
  • The accountant who works for the CPA firm that handles payroll for the company.
  • The purchasing manager who places orders with the company every week.
  • The lawyer who knows the lawyer who represents the company.
  • The stock broker who knows the analyst who follows the company’s performance.
  • The engineer who wrote the article about the new technology the company uses.
  • The sales rep who answers the phone to help customers in your region.

But, you say you don’t know all those people? That’s a minor detail! You just don’t know them yet. You probably know at least one of them, and the rest you can get to know by picking up the phone. Anyone you know about you can also get to know.

Get wired

If you try to avoid this critical step in your job search, you’re kidding yourself about where jobs come from. While you’re crying that you lost out to somebody who was wired for the job, you’re doing nothing to be the wired candidate for the next one. Jobs come from insiders that help you get the inside track because you got to know them first.

Contacts like these are on the critical path to your next job because they have the inside story about the companies and the managers you want to work for. You need to talk with them. This is how the best headhunters glean the hard-to-find information they use to land new clients and to find the best job candidates for those clients. They get to know the people they need to know.

Get to work getting to know people

People love to talk about their business. You’ve heard me say it before: You can almost always get someone’s attention by talking shop with them. (You don’t need to do the icky kind of networking!) By asking intelligent (well-researched!) questions about their work. By expressing your educated interest in work they do that you want to do, too.

As you start to gather their insights, you will learn a lot, and you will formulate more good questions. This leads you to talk to more people. “Well, gee, who else do you recommend I talk to in the company regarding the marketing department?” This is how you get in the door through personal referrals.

If this were easy, everybody would be doing it

You’ll know you’re doing it right when your supply of new friends overflows, and when you’re talking with them about their work — not about getting a job.

Here are a few of the things you should not say:

  • Let me tell you about myself…[and start reciting your resume]
  • Do you know about any open jobs?
  • Can you please pass my resume on to the company [or the manager or the HR department]?
  • Can you get me an informational interview?

It’s all about personal contacts, but not about awkward, mercenary networking. It’s about establishing a credible interest in a company, in educating yourself deeply, and in helping the business. Never ask directly for a job lead—you’ll just be referred to the HR department.

So get to work. Stop saying you don’t know anybody, or you’ll never land a great job through personal contacts — which is how most people find jobs.

Sorry, I didn’t say it was easy. If this were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Then what?

I throw it out to you!

  • What other kinds of new contacts are on the “critical path” to your next job?
  • Who can you contact next? (Not to talk about a job!)
  • What should you not say to new people you meet?
  • What do you say to new contacts you make, to help educate yourself about the company and to help get you to the right hiring manager?

Let’s talk about “Then what?” The Comments section below awaits your ideas, suggestions, frustrations questions and discussion. We’re all here to figure it out.

: :

Networking Magic: Help someone get a job

Networking Magic: Help someone get a job

Question

help someone get a jobI’m a regular reader. Most of the articles are about “How do I get a job?” How about one that talks about “How do I help someone else get a job?”

This just happened last week. I told a former co-worker that I would give him a recommendation. I was happy to do it because the company we worked at was bad, and he was a very professional guy. He told me a staffing firm would be calling, so I was ready.

The young recruiter asked me some typical questions like, “What tools does he use? Does he use Power BI?” These questions were mostly irrelevant to the job requirements. The recruiter was just checking off boxes on a form.

I interrupted. “What you need to know is that this guy can go into any job, figure out what needs to be done, and do it without being told. I saw it.”

The recruiter said, “Really? Oh, hold on, let me write that down.” I took him off his script, and I think I helped my guy out.

Because isn’t that what every staffing service wants? Someone who just walks in, does the job, and makes the staffing service look good? A recruiter asking for a recommendation may not realize it, so you just have to work with them a little to make them realize it.

I’ll bet the readership could come up with lots of examples of how to help someone else out.

Nick’s Reply

When I suggest to people that they turn to their professional contacts when they want a new job, many lament that they don’t really have any. “I don’t know anybody!” You just showed how to make such contacts in what might be viewed as an usual way: by helping someone else get a job.

Personal referrals start with you

We all know that most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Yet we spend too much if not most of our time applying online via forms and clicks. Or, we wait for recruiters to spam us with unspecified “opportunities.” That’s a million miles from the nearest personal contact — and the nearest good job.

I learned long ago that even in the most volatile markets the best companies are quietly hiring — through personal referrals. But people misunderstand the personal referral. It doesn’t mean taking your friend’s resume to your HR department or passing it to your boss. It means sticking your neck out for someone like you’d want them to do for you.

Break the script when making a recommendation

Your story is not unusual but it’s instructive because you took the initiative to do more than answer a recruiter’s questions. You broke the recruiter’s standard script. Those scripts are designed to gather data points the company can process to judge whether a person is worth interviewing and hiring.

But you did the “processing” for the recruiter. You interrupted and gave the recruiter the answer: “This person is worth hiring. I saw it with my own eyes.” You made your recommendation personal to that recruiter. You stuck your neck out. That moved your buddy to the front of the hiring line.

Tap into a new network: help someone get a job

Sometimes we get so wrapped up trying to get ourselves a job that we forget where jobs come from: one another. Applying to a job posted online does not produce good will, or reciprocity, or personal recommendations. Helping someone else get a job does. It’s a far better investment.

That’s not to say you should help someone get a job just so they’ll help you get a job. My point is that helping others is a shared experience that fosters sharing help.

People are often confused about what good networking is and how to do it. Shared experiences are the most powerful component of good networking. In your case, your buddy just had a great experience with you. Now your network bond is stronger. The recruiter you spoke with had a very valuable experience with you and will think of you when looking for more good candidates — not just referrals, but perhaps to place you.

If you call your buddy or the recruiter in a few months and tell them you’re looking to make a change, do you think they might be the personal referral that gets you your next job? Or would you rather “network” with a stranger on LinkedIn with whom you’ve got no shared experiences?

Help: Be a network hub

When I started headhunting engineers in Silicon Valley I didn’t know anyone. I asked the senior guy in the office what I should do to be successful. “Spend every dime you can to take engineers to lunch. Get to know them. Make friends. Then introduce the best to one another. Do them that favor, then keep doing it.”

This pivotal practice made me the hub of an ever widening engineering network. I made many introductions that didn’t yield any placement fees. But most of those introductions were shared experiences that created trust and built many solid relationships. When I called these engineers for personal referrals to help me fill assignments I was working on, do you think they trusted me to share their best contacts? Do you think they put in a good word for me?

Don’t know anybody that can help you get a new job? Help somebody else fill a job or get a job by sticking your neck out, by breaking the script, and creating an unexpected shared experience. That’s how to tap into a new network. That’s what creates new and valuable personal contacts for you, too.

How have you helped someone get a job? How did you go the extra mile? How did you “say it” when you made a successful personal referral? Did it pay off indirectly for you? Has anyone ever made a special effort to help you get a job?

: :

 

Get Inspired: How to use Ask The Headhunter

Get Inspired: How to use Ask The Headhunter

By Kevin Kane
A long-time reader

get inspired

Ask The Headhunter (ATH) offers great advice about job hunting. But ATH is not merely about “getting a job.” It is about doing the work you love, at the highest level, to continually improve yourself and to be a bigger contributor to the world. Let me share how it helps me, and how you can use it during the job search and beyond.

Get inspired

The Headhunter likes Ayn Rand’s fiction. Her stories glorify productive achievement, showing work to be exalted and energizing rather than trite and tiring. Her characters work with ambition, verve, conviction, reason and tenacity. They make a difference; they make things better. It is hard to read Rand without wanting to jump up and change the world.

Work with the best; be one of the best

But inspiration is not enough. It was not until I discovered ATH that the seeds of how to implement Rand’s inspiration were planted.

Reading Nick’s work made me realize what it takes to be truly productive and invaluable in the workplace. You have to be honest. You can’t fake anything. Don’t lie about your “qualifications,” or waste time with HR if they do not ask you to demonstrate your work and to show how you can produce profit. Go to the people who do the work you want to do, the work that creates value, to talk and learn about how you can add value. You will know you are not faking it when you can clearly show a company how you can add value and profit to their particular business.

How I go “above and beyond” – and surprise managers!

I was talking with a company using a standard ATH approach. I talked to one employee after another, having each refer me to another as I built my reputation within the company. When I finally met a hiring manager, he must have heard I had talked to several people, because he said, “I’ve been in this business 11 years and frankly, no one has ever done what you did. What are you up to?” He was impressed, but shocked.

Sometimes my motivation to learn about a business makes its employees wonder if I am spying for a competitor. Why else would I be interested to learn so much about them? No mere “job hunter” would go to such trouble. But my interest in companies and their people is what gets me in their doors.

3 tips from Ask The Headhunter

There are three eminently useful lessons I’ve gleaned from ATH. Apply them yourself and see what a difference they make.

1. Be honest with yourself
If you don’t completely know something that could help you do stellar work, don’t pretend you do. Learn it. Overcome your fear to ask a stupid question, because it isn’t. When I have questions which seem dumb or elementary, I ask anyway. Even when I ask them of experts who’ve been doing good work in their fields for years, they sometimes say, “I have no idea, but that’s an interesting question! Maybe you should talk to…” That is how you expand your contacts.

2. Talk to the best sources
These people are not necessarily the most prestigious, but rather they are the ones who can most clearly and enthusiastically answer your questions. Especially valuable are those who not only know, but truly care. Once they see that you are reputable and have a sincere interest in their work, they say things like, “That’s a good question, but an even more important one to ask first is…” These people are gems! Treasure and cultivate your friendships with them.

3. Seek to be the best at what you want to do
Do what you absolutely really want to do, not what it seems like you presently need or have to do. Imagine you had all your needs met. What would you then do upon awakening in the morning? Once you answer that, try this kicker: What’s stopping you from doing that now?

Stay inspired

Rand inspires me, and ATH shows me how to use that inspiration. But like all of us, I sometimes get sidetracked. That is when I ask the very simple question, “Why am I really doing this?” It gets me back on track to what I really want. It connects my everyday actions to my most important dreams, dreams that are becoming more real one step at a time, and each step makes them seem even more attainable. Perhaps most importantly, this fills me with confidence that I really am contributing something significant and useful to the world.

Note: I don’t normally publish articles about Ask The Headhunter, but when Kevin Kane wrote to describe how he has used ATH, I was so impressed with his articulate summary that I wanted to share it. I hope other readers find it useful. Many thanks to Kevin for “taking time to teach!”  — Nick

Kevin Kane is a published commentator on mobile and wireless solutions, and is co-author of the article “Proactive Personality and the Successful Job Search,” in the Journal of Applied Psychology. 

: :

Should you discount your salary to get your foot in the door?

Should you discount your salary to get your foot in the door?

Question

get your foot in the doorHow do you get your foot in the door without the necessary degree (yet)? I’m changing careers from computer programming to bioinformatics, which is a field that uses computers to answer biological questions. Most bioinformaticians I’ve spoken to consider computing to be a more important skill than genetics. While I’m almost finished with a masters in the field, I really need to get a job, but most jobs list a degree as a requirement.

I’m considering selling my lack of a completed degree as an opportunity for the employer to snag an experienced programmer who’s new to bioinformatics at a discount, if they hire me now vs. waiting until I finish my degree when I’ll be more marketable.

Is this a good idea? I know it will have an impact on my ability to negotiate a salary, but 2020 has left me in a position where I simply must have an income. So my concern is more about whether it will look bad, or presumptuous.

If you think it’s a good move, how should I phrase this “value proposition?” Thank you.

Nick’s Reply

I don’t think we have many bioinformaticians in our community, but your question is a good one for us because it would be relevant to anyone contemplating a significant change in careers. The words “degree required” often stop talented people dead in their tracks when it should just make them find a way around that obstacle.

Paying to get your foot in the door

While I like your “willingness to deal” to get hired, I’m not sure the savings would mean enough to an employer to affect their decision to hire you now one way or the other. In fact, making your discount offer to help you get in the door might complicate the calculus. Getting a discount could actually put an undue emphasis on the risk the manager feels they’re taking. Make sense?

“Degree required” is often negotiable if the candidate can show relevant experience or related education (or potent, relevant references). You could easily submit an application that notes “degree expected Month, 2021.”

Networking to get in the door

This is a case where I think my general advice to avoid applying with resumes and forms is all the more important. Resumes and forms cannot defend you or explain the valuable trade-off your computing skills represent. If you had a personal referral to the hiring manager, you could reduce the risk of being rejected out of hand for lack of the degree. A good word from a trusted contact could lead the manager to take a chance on you. I really think investing time and effort to identify and quickly develop such a contact could be invaluable.

My guess is you have some companies in mind. Start mapping out the network of people who might help you —  people connected to each company and others associated in turn. It’s a little-known fact that the nodes on the periphery of a network are often the most useful and productive (cf. Six Degrees: The Science of A Connected Age, Duncan Watts). This means the person that will ultimately help you is probably unknown to you today. Map out that network exhaustively. Start dropping notes to people you identify that might provide you with insights, advice and introductions. If networking like this makes you shudder, learn how even shy people can network.

The ideal referral or introduction would come from someone who connects the dots for the hiring manager about how your programming expertise would benefit the manager.

Think like the manager

If I were the employer you approached, a lot would depend on the specific job I was trying to fill. If it’s standalone (vs. working on a team) or a senior role, I might really want at least a couple of years hands-on experience in bioinformatics specifically. But if all the weight of that specialization is not going to be on the new hire, I’d probably consider a sharp new grad who shows me they can ride a fast learning curve without falling off. I think you need to appeal to the latter kinds of managers.

To get your foot in the door without the degree it’s crucial for you to glean insights from people in bioinformatics who know and work for managers you may want to work for. So making such contacts is all the more important. They will hopefully influence a manager and also provide you with insights so you can choose managers and companies wisely. (These folks might also help you with your question about offering a salary discount.) You need that extra edge.

Get an edge to get that foot in the door

Gene Webb, my mentor at Stanford, was a biz school professor whose research was in decision theory. He taught all his students this: If you’re going to take a bet, any marginal bit of information you have that your competitors don’t have makes the bet worth taking. Employers are so reliant on keywords in resumes and job applications that any candidate’s odds of success are — in my opinion — about the same. They’re all tiny! The recruiting process reduces even the best candidates to even odds of being brought in for an interview. The marginal advantage, which is always worth cultivating, is a personal recommendation. It raises your odds of getting a meeting dramatically. (Here are some ways to get an edge.)

I wouldn’t sell myself short by offering a pre-emptive discount to get your foot in the door. Even if you’re going to make the offer, it should be via personal conversation or via a referral the manager trusts. There’s just too much chance such an offer on a document (that can’t defend itself) will be read the wrong way. I would not do it. That said, if your interview goes swimmingly but the manager seems hesitant about that degree, well, then you might play the discount card. Now you’d be doing it the right way – face to face, and you’d be able to answer any questions the manager has about your offer. However, how you play it would depend on any new information you gather in that interview.

Would you offer a salary discount to get a job — regardless of your line of work — when you don’t meet all the requirements? If you’re a manager, how would you regard an applicant that offers to accept a lower salary in exchange for a shot at the job? What other clever methods can this reader use to get a shot?

: :

Do LinkedIn recommendations, endorsements & connections matter?

Do LinkedIn recommendations, endorsements & connections matter?

A reader admits there’s fake stuff in LinkedIn Recommendations and asks whether these “networking” tools really work, in the November 10, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.

Question

LinkedIn recommendationsHow important are LinkedIn “recommendations?” Some are true, some are made up and a person feels an obligation to lay it on. How can you improve them?

My issue is that I have been out of the job market for four years, my recommendations are old, and I don’t have many current recommendations that are relevant. I also wonder about “endorsements” and why a request to “connect” through a mutual contact rarely goes anywhere. Thank you.

Nick’s Reply

Let’s start with the basics: Your LinkedIn profile is your calling card. You should absolutely have one. But your profile doesn’t “market” or “sell” you. All it does is confirm you exist when someone looks you up.

LinkedIn recommendations

“Recommendations” are the section on a LinkedIn profile where people post nice things about you.

I pay no attention at all to LinkedIn recommendations and I don’t know anyone that does, except perhaps some wishful job seekers and naive recruiters. It doesn’t hurt to have recommendations. If you want to game this silly system, ask folks who posted the old ones to copy/delete/repost under new date. But I would not put much time into any of this.

What do LinkedIn recommendations mean?

Here’s the test for a recommendation posted on your LinkedIn profile: Would the person be willing to call an employer to provide a detailed reference for you on the phone and to answer questions about you?

My guess is that most won’t. That makes LinkedIn recommendations nice but not very meaningful. They’re window dressing. No employer is going to hire you because someone larded your profile with praise. They’re going to want to talk with your references.

The same is true about your list of “connections.” Should an employer be impressed if you have 5,000 contacts? I’m not. LinkedIn links are free. The ease with which LinkedIn allows us to portray “connections” makes them questionable at best. Then we have “endorsements” — I call this “credibility with a click.” It’s meaningless.

LinkedIn’s value to you

What would be more useful is to ask those same people (your fans who post recommendations) if they’d be willing to (a) serve as actual references and (b) make personal introductions via e-mail or phone. My guess is most cannot because they don’t know you or your work well enough.

The main value of LinkedIn to you is that it’s a huge digital directory you can use to check up on people you’re dealing with or want to meet. However, we all know that messaging your Connection A via LinkedIn to get introduced to their Connection B is not likely to get you anywhere. Times I’ve tried this, I get this reply: “Sorry, I’m connected to B but I don’t know her at all.”

That’s because connections are free, so most are worthless. You might as well search a phonebook to get an introduction! The best way to get introduced to a person is to actually talk with someone that knows them. Use the phone! (See Networking For Introverts: How to say it.)

LinkedIn’s value to employers

The main value of LinkedIn to employers is to to “check you out” after they’ve used other, better means to get interested in you. The problem is if they can’t find you there. So by all means, have a good, simple LinkedIn profile that “proves” you exist!

But don’t count on it doing much more. Contrary to what LinkedIn “profile writers” might tell you, your LinkedIn profile does not “market” you. At best, your profile is your resume — and it’s passive. Sure, loads of recruiters search LinkedIn for keywords to find candidates on LinkedIn. But all they find are keywords — not your value.

LinkedIn is not a professional network

At its inception, LinkedIn was founded as an exclusive professional network in which members “connected” only with people they knew or did business with. That’s where its integrity and value were to reside.

But the day LinkedIn turned into just another job board, selling “seats” to recruiters and “top positioning” to job seekers, the network turned into a souped-up digital phonebook. Founders Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner cashed out — and sold out a promising, powerful system of business relationships.

While LinkedIn offers millions of nodes in its network (that’s you — a node), the value of connections between nodes is negligible. LinkedIn makes money by selling access to its nodes, or members, to employers. It has abandoned the integrity of the links between people. That’s why connections are free. That’s why a node (a LinkedIn member) is not likely to introduce you to another.

The best way to meet people who can help you is through other people that actually have shared professional experiences with you. People that have gotten to know you. People who will speak up for you and who will engineer an introduction or referral to an employer that trusts them. LinkedIn simply does not facilitate that.

Invest in strong personal links

Most people on LinkedIn who don’t know you aren’t going to introduce you to their contacts – I won’t! So, limit your use of LinkedIn to looking people up — but only after someone has already made a trusted, personal introduction that includes an endorsement and a recommendation. There’s your truly valuable connection between nodes!

This means talking with people and developing relationships. LinkedIn messaging has become just another channel of junk mail that people ignore. Junk mail is anything from someone you don’t know who clearly doesn’t know you.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s who you really know that matters, and who really knows you. If you and your endorsers really know one another, what are you doing using LinkedIn to get introduced to “connections”? Make a phone call! And make it personal!

How do you use LinkedIn? Is it really an effective “professional network” or just a dumpster of all resumes? What could be done to make LinkedIn better? Most important, how do you really connect with people to advance your career?

: :

Job Search During The Pandemic

Job Search During The Pandemic

By Jason Alba

job searchBefore you think I’m an expert in the history of pandemics (check out this great infographic for a visual of pandemic history), I’ll admit that I’ve never experienced anything like what we are going through today. The world seems to be at a standstill with no more eating inside restaurants, all conferences postponed… even the Olympics have been moved.

Job panic in the pandemic

At first it seemed the biggest problem we’d face was getting toilet paper. Don’t get me wrong, not having ready access to toilet paper could be catastrophic. As time passes it seems that, without discounting the tragedy of illness and death, we are looking at economic crises that no one living has experienced. I’m seeing a lot of fear, panic and a lack of focus.

The first week people started working from home en masse, the comments I saw and heard were that people just didn’t know what to do. Routines were rattled and people wondered what this would mean for their jobs. Recruiters have been talking about hiring freezes. Recruiters, by the way, are like a canary in the proverbial coal mine when it comes to the economy.

Opportunities in the pandemic

Even then, with the confusion and major changes to life and work, some businesses are continuing with as much force as they had B.C. (Before Coronavirus). Some companies, such as delivery, shipping, and manufacturing, have announced massive hiring needs. Of course, these aren’t all executive jobs, or senior management jobs, but if a company is about to bring on thousands of new employees, they’ll have management and leadership needs they might not have had before.

I work with a Saas (Software as a service) company that is continuing to grow, close deals, and see expansion with current customers. The business success they are seeing isn’t related to current events. Rather, business must continue, and businesses continue to invest in growth and other initiatives. Businesses are even investing in employees. While you probably see hiring freezes in some companies, surely there are other companies that have their normal needs, or will have new needs. This becomes your opportunity.

Job search in the pandemic

Here’s what I know about the job search during this time: While some things will be different, other things will very much remain the same — especially what works. The pandemic makes it necessary to do more of what we know works best.

Jason Alba is creator of the 6-week Job Search Program, a daily web-based audio tutorial designed to help you get your next job. He’s also CEO of JibberJobber, the acclaimed contact-management system for job seekers.

Lets be honest: Much of the pain of a job search is in actually doing what it takes every day to achieve your goal. Job hunting is an iterative process. You must do many of the same tasks every day. The repetition can get tiring and lonely. It’s hard to keep up the necessary pace. It’s hard to stay motivated. Every day of the Job Search Program, Jason talks and guides you through your job search.

Frankly, one of the important things Jason delivers is the daily “kick in the pants” even the most astute job seekers need to keep them on track. Every day, Jason walks you through a series of High Value Tasks designed to help achieve your goal. Then you confirm your progress on his clever logging system.

I’ve known Jason for 15 years. He’s one of the few people in the job-search world I respect and admire. His program isn’t for everyone — but it’s the closest thing you’ll find to a daily session with a savvy job-search coach. (You’ll recognize lots that you’ve learned on Ask The Headhunter!)

Jason invites you to try the first 3 days of the 6-week-long Job Search Program for free, so you can decide whether it’s right for you. I’ve tried it, and I like it, or I wouldn’t be telling you about it. Judge for yourself. Try it out for free.

[Disclosure: This website earns a referral fee if you make a purchase.]

Networking will be more important. Jobs have always been filled based on trust and relationships. People hire who they know, or who is referred to them, or who somehow ends up on the radar. Networking doesn’t have to happen in person, though. When you think about networking as relationship building more than as a superficial exercise, you’ll find your networking efforts are more focused and effective.

Talking to the right person will be more important. I was talking to a colleague during a sales conversation and he stressed that we were not pitching to the right person. Our conversation was not even with a gatekeeper. While the other person was eager to hear what we had to say, they were neither an influencer nor a decision-maker. It was then I realized that talking to people was great, but talking to the right people was more important. This is as true in sales as it is in the job search.

Having the right conversations is even more critical. When you talk to the right people, make sure you have the right conversation. The conversation with a gatekeeper is different than the conversation with a decision-maker. In the job search you will talk to plenty of people who are not hiring managers, but they might help you network with hiring managers. Make sure you know which conversations to have with which contacts.

Follow-up is more essential. Unfortunately, networking in the job search means meeting a lot of new people, online, at networking events, or in outdoor venues when society opens back up. Meeting new people is important but it’s not enough. You must follow up. Not having a follow-up strategy is an indication you really don’t understand networking. As I mentioned, networking is about relationships, and you don’t form professional relationships with just one conversation. We need to have multiple conversations, and follow-up is a big part of that.

These have been the basics of job search for decades. Unfortunately, for many years job seekers have relied on job boards to do most of their work. Why network when you can almost anonymously upload a resume, without talking to humans? For introverts, this was like a dream come true. For everyone else, we felt forced to do job search that way, lest all the good jobs were posted and filled with job-board applicants.

The truth is, plenty of jobs were found by the principles above. This was true during great economies and horrible economies. Even while everyone seems to be working from home, who you know and who knows you is as important today as it has ever been. In fact, today it’s more important.

Jason Alba is the CEO and creator of JibberJobber.com, a web-based CRM-like system that organizes and manages a job search and networking. He recently created The Job Search Program, a six-week tutorial framework in which Alba guides a job seeker through planned, daily tasks necessary to land a job.

: :

Caregiver faces resume gap & reference risk

Caregiver faces resume gap & reference risk

In the January 7, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader takes time to be Mom’s caregiver and worries about a resume gap and references.

Question

caregiverI left my job of 16 years with two weeks’ notice and a cordial thank you to my boss. My boss was bitter that I decided to move on and it was very apparent my last day. I worry that if an employer calls and asks to speak with him he would not give me a good recommendation even after 16 years of service. I had assumed that most companies are just allowed to verify employment. What if they contact my former boss directly?

The next problem is why I left that job: My mother had a stroke and I became her full-time caregiver. This was much harder than any job I’ve ever had. I am adding a simple bullet point on my resume listing this time as “Primary caregiver for ill immediate family member.” Is this how I should account for this time gap?

Nick’s Reply

The very best job applicant can be sunk when employers rely on information that the applicant has no opportunity to explain. If your old boss gives a negative reference and you have no chance to refute it, you’re done. If an employer is troubled by a gap on your resume because you were a caregiver and you’re not there to explain it, you lose. You’ll never know what happened in either case.

The problem here isn’t your old boss or your resume — or that you took time off to be Mom’s caregiver. The problem is that you’re allowing someone (an unexpected reference) or something (your resume) to represent you. Why not be represented to your advantage by someone the employer trusts?

Caregiver resume gap

Explaining work gaps is always iffy – so much depends on the attitude of the employer reading that resume. This is why I advocate not using a resume to introduce yourself to a company. A resume cannot defend you.

A resume that raises questions you are not present to answer can easily hurt you. A gap on your resume might trigger a quick, thoughtless rejection. Situations like yours make it risky to rely on a resume as the way to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know who does not know you.

Reference risk

You need to head off concerns by helping the hiring manager learn about you from a source more reliable than a resume. You need someone to paint you as a desirable job candidate before any questions are raised.

Try to wrangle a personal introduction to the hiring manager through a mutual contact — someone who does know you and who can speak up for you to answer an employer’s concerns about the caregiver gap, and who can parry a negative reference that’s not under your control. Check these ideas from other readers about how to network your way to a great introduction.

Send an advance party

You may have to work hard to find and cultivate that mutual contact – but it’s really the only way to get a hiring manager’s serious attention and to counteract worries about your gap. Send an advance party. In other words, you need someone to tell the hiring manager you’re worth hiring before they find a (silly) reason to reject you. (See How to get to the hiring manager.)

If you must use a resume, I agree that you should probably include a short note about the caregiving. But managers and HR get so many resumes that they look first for a reason to reject an applicant. Don’t give them that reason. A preemptive personal referral or introduction from someone the employer trusts can make all the difference.

The truth about references

It’s improper for an employer to contact your old boss without your permission for a reference. I think most companies honor this. An HR department that’s called for a reference should provide nothing more than verification of past employment. But managers and HR have their own back channels – their own trusted network that will talk to them off the record. So you can never tell what they will learn about you.

For all these reasons, a trusted personal recommendation is the best way to offset any concerns an employer might have about a resume gap or about one poor reference. Don’t wait for problems to arise. Cultivate personal contacts to get you in the door and to preempt objections a resume might trigger. For more about this, please see Get Hired: No resume, no interview, no joke. I admire you for stepping in to help your mom. I wish you both the best.

Have you ever been hurt by a work gap on your resume? Or by a bitter old boss? How did you explain it? How would you advise this reader?

: :

Natural Networking: An End to Stupid Networking

In the May 15, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter another novel — I’d argue natural — networking opportunity turns up painlessly.

Question

There’s no question from a reader this week. Just a suggestion and a challenge. Are you ready to play?

networkingAn example of natural networking

We recently discussed Shared Experiences: The key to good networking. Lots of great ideas came up, but what does it mean to have shared experiences?

Networking is not about strained, engineered, icky socializing to find a job when you desperately need it. (See Please! Stop Networking!) Frankly, that’s the stupidest way to network, and everyone should be appalled that any “career expert” is stupid enough to think they can sell that “advice” to desperate job seekers.

Networking should and must be natural. An example is hanging out with people who play board games you like playing.

Playing games together

Yep — I said board games. Monopoly. Settlers of Catan. Trajan. Power Grid. Natural networking is a room full of people sitting elbow to elbow rolling dice. Corporate travel agents, forty-something lawyers, new college grads, entrepreneurs and bankers. Software developers. Journalists.

The other day during breakfast (I do my heavy-duty reading over Cheerios and Raisin Bran Crunch) I was reading The Power of Play by Mark Ellwood in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Halfway through the article I dropped my spoon and ran to my desk to write this column. I’d found another good example of how to network naturally without getting icky.

Ellwood interviewed people while they played games together on scheduled game nights.

Camaraderie with benefits

In his mind-altering article Ellwood recounted the offhand benefits gamers told him about:

  • A programmer met a CEO.
  • A hedge fund manager raised money for charity.
  • A media executive lined up an internship for his niece.
  • A lawyer showed another lawyer how to start a pro bono program at his law firm.
  • A financier landed a new job.
  • A manager got to see how a colleague handles losing.
  • An employer met potential hires from local universities while they all played games together.

They all fell into benefits naturally. During game time there’s no ick, no rehearsed elevator pitches, no resumes, no job seekers pestering you. “There’s an atmosphere of camaraderie,” notes Ellwood. The setting “erases the hierarchies of 9 to 5.”

One of the gamers revealed to Ellwood a natural artifact of playing together:

“You’re sitting around pieces of cardboard, leaning in close, and it all feels a little more intimate.”

Rolling the dice with friends

There can be an end to stupid networking if people get physically close to one another, do something together that’s enjoyable and challenging, and forget about work until it comes up in conversation. But, networking? What’s that? Hey, please pass the dice!

For every stupid “networking event” promoted to job seekers, I think there’s a pleasant gathering untainted by job hunting that coincidentally yields new jobs for some people some of the time while they’re doing something else.

Doing something else seems to be the key. What else do people do that’s enjoyable, social, and mentally liberating enough that it enables people to make new friends — and maybe realize they could work together?

An end to stupid networking?

If we can unlock these events and change how we think about them, we may never need to — urgh! — “network” again!

It’s your turn: What other kinds of gatherings lead naturally to job opportunities for some people some of the time while virtually guaranteeing fun and fellowship all the time?

: :

“Make personal contacts to get a job? Awkward…” Get over it!

Quick Question

Thanks for your advice about meeting people and making personal contacts to get a job in Do you discriminate against employers? You should. It makes sense… except when you don’t have friends! LOL! Besides, it’s awkward!

personal contactsNick’s Quick Advice

Yeah, I know — it’s awkward to meet people to get a job. (It makes you cringe, right?) You’re in good company. And everybody in that company is wrong.

When I bring up making new personal contacts, everyone likes to excuse themselves by saying they just don’t have professional contacts, their old work buddies are long gone, no one can help them.

My answer is: Bunk.

It’s an excuse, my friend. We all learn to be lazy because we feel awkward reaching out to new people. You have to get over it.

Meeting people, making contacts, making new friends and talking shop is a skill. You learn it and practice it. (Please see I don’t know anybody.) If you don’t practice this important skill, you lose — and the job boards and online applications will not be your automated substitute for the 40-70% of jobs that are filled via personal contacts.

If you quietly fill out online job applications, you’re at the mercy of HR departments that process database records all day long while you wait for them to contact you. You already know that doesn’t work, so why do you keep pretending?

The only alternative is the one that has worked for centuries:

Personal Contacts: Go talk to people.

Meeting people to get introduced to hiring managers and new job opportunities makes sense. You know it does — but you just don’t want to think about it. I know it’s awkward for many people. So go into your bathroom, lock the door, look in the mirror. Smile at yourself for a few seconds, then scream at yourself:

PRETENDING A DATABASE IS GONNA FIND ME A JOB IS BUNK! I KNOW BETTER!

And you do.

Diddling the keyboard to find a job makes no sense at all — except to “job services” like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster, and every other job board. Their entire business model is based on you not finding a job, and on you returning again and again to the digital swill pot for a drink. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

Those companies make more money when you can’t find a job and when employers can’t fill jobs. That’s how the employment industry works. It’s not how people get hired.

I’m not beating you up, just shaking you a bit. Please listen.

For more about making personal contacts, see “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends” and “How to initiate insider contacts” in How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers — it’s for anyone who wants to stand out when applying for a job. Until Dec. 5, 2016, you can get 40% off any Ask The Headhunter PDF book — at checkout, use discount code=MERRYATH.

: :