Job Search: The Trouble with Networking.
by Regan McMahon
Those in the know tell me that all the electronic applications I’m filing are useless.
A highly successful financier told me he could have a stack of 100 applications on his desk, placed there by the HR department in response to an ad, and if one of his staffers popped his head in the guy’s office and said, “You should interview my buddy Jim; he’d be great in that job,” Jim will not only get an interview, he’ll have the edge on being hired. “What’s going to carry more weight with me,” my friend asked rhetorically. “The 100 strangers in the stack, or the proven quantity recommended to me by a person I trust?”
Makes sense. My problem is I don’t seem to have a network to nudge. I worked for years at the same place, and most of my colleagues in the media are either employed at a place that’s experiencing layoffs or unemployed and competing against me for the few jobs there are. I managed a stable of freelance writers, but none I can hit up for a job.
The key is said to be setting up informational interviews. But when I know in advance there are no openings at a place, and that a hiring freeze is in effect, it seems pointless. If the theory is that the guy will remember me weeks or months down the line when the thaw comes, is that a realistic expectation?
A former colleague of mine has been diligent about setting up these kinds of interviews, but she comes away from them more depressed than before, with a sinking feeling that she was wasting her time and the staff member’s. The rosiest scenario is when that person suggests another person for her to contact. But each time she’s contacted that next person, the answer has been the same: “Sure, I’d be happy to speak with you, but we have no openings and I don’t know when we will.”