Many years ago, my son and I were rowing out to our mooring to go sailing with my father-in-law. My son, who was probably 8 or 9 at the time, asked my father-in-law if he knew the EXACT difference between a rhinoceros and a piece of paper. After several totally wrong guesses, my son gave him the answer: You can’t make a spitball out of a rhinoceros. Fortunately, my father-in-law was wearing a life jacket because he almost fell into the water, he was laughing so hard.
The EXACT difference I would like to address tonight will probably not cause you to laugh quite as hard, but it appears to be a distinction that is lost on most people, so don’t feel bad if you are one of them. What I am going to discuss tonight is the EXACT difference between job leads and networking, and by implication why networking is so much better.
Job leads are posted from a variety of sources. Some you will see are sent in directly from the corporations who are doing the actual hiring. Others are being handled by search firms. Some of the search firms are retained search firms. Others work on contingency. (All that means is that the retained firm is expected to keep working on the assignment until they find someone, whereas the contingency firm will stop at whatever point the feel they can’t find someone.)
Posted job leads in all cases contain a “bill of particulars,” and those who are responsible for fielding a slate of candidates are well advised to find folks who “fit.” They are in no way concerned with your career growth or career aspirations. They are also in no way concerned with your potential disappointment at not being selected, even though you could possibly do the job. Just as with a form from the IRS, all the boxes need to be filled in as best as possible. Just as you have to do your work as if your job depended on it, so do the folks who fill jobs. You could be one of the most capable individuals on the planet, but if you don’t have one of the items on the checklist, you aren’t going to be selected.
It is a beauty contest of sorts. If you put the word out to “every man, woman and child on the face of the earth,” you are going to get a fairly large number of very qualified candidates. Friends, it is a fair fight. Personally, I’m not a big fan of fair fights, but that’s just me. (The reason is that I could lose.) On a posted job lead, you are either a strong fit, or I can assure you that you won’t be selected. It is a sad state of affairs, but that’s the way the world works. Human Resource Directors and Search Firms have no choice but to “deliver the goods.”
The networking process is entirely different. In this case, there is no job per se. You only need to make every effort to find folks who understand what it is you do and how you do it. You also need to try to identify folks to whom you would like an introduction. Through a series of warm introductions, you find yourself in front of many decision makers who are willing to chat with you to discuss your career and how it might fit in their industry. This is an example of a classic “informational” interview.
The principal advantage is that both parties are allowed to “pretend” that this isn’t about finding you a job at their company. In this relaxed atmosphere where I am not measuring you up for a specific job, the “hiring authority” talks about their problems and you talk about your career and how you have solved exactly those problems in another industry or perhaps at another firm in their industry. You came in on a warm introduction, so much of the “heat shield” present during an “interview” doesn’t exist. Everyone’s defenses are down a bit because this isn’t about filling a particular job. It is about friends of friends having a quiet chat about work and to “moan and groan” about how various problems can be solved.
So let’s see. The “hiring authority” has a problem and you have a solution that you have successfully implemented several times. Have you ever heard the expression that everything is always in the last place you looked? The reason is that once you find something, you stop looking.
If you think at this stage the company is going to develop a job specification and put this requirement “out to bid,” you are being plain silly. Often times they didn’t even know they had a problem until YOU told them. This is why networking works.
There is no side by side comparison being made. You stand alone in all your brilliance.
The only problem is that networking is a lot of hard work, a lot harder than clicking and shooting at every job lead you can find in our newsletter or on other job boards. The upside is that it works better and accounts for 80% or more of all successful job searches.
It’s your decision, but if I was rowing across a harbor in search of a sturdy vessel to go sailing on, I would spend most of my time networking.
But then, that’s just me. (Just be sure that if you are telling jokes, that you are wearing a lifejacket.)