Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt
Last week I wrote a post in which I said that you should contact the hiring manager whenever possible to apply for a job you want, rather than just applying through the system and hoping for the best. Sabrina left this comment:
So here’s a question I have, because I hear that advice a lot. Contact the hiring manager. Find out who he or she is and make sure they see your resume. And how does one do that? If I apply to Acme Corp and the listing says “Administrative Assistant to the Director of Information Technology” OK I can figure that out. But if it’s just generic “Administrative Assistant” and doesn’t give a department name or anything (I’ve spent the better part of the last 3 years looking and most do not) how are you supposed to figure that puzzle out? Especially if you know no one at that company or anyone who knows anyone? I’m not trying to refute your advice, I’d actually like to know. (Luckily I just started a new job yesterday but I have always wondered about this)
Here’s the key to this: build a network so that you’re never in a situation where you don’t know anyone at the company.
This is where these social networking tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are really helpful. I’ve ranted about the idea that Twitter can get people a job, and I stand by that. Some people join Twitter and wait for something to happen, the same way they apply for jobs online and wait for something to happen. That’s just never going to work. What Twitter will do is connect you with people so you can help yourself find a job.
I see a lot of people who use social networking tools to keep in touch with their existing friends…people they see and talk to regularly in real life. That’s fine, but in terms of job hunting, that approach is pretty much useless. You need to make new friends too. You need a much broader network, so that when you need to connect to someone at Acme Corporation, you’ve got enough people to ask that your odds of finding a way in are pretty good.
Let’s use Twitter as an example. I’ve got 535 followers on Twitter, and I only know three of them in real life. The rest are people I “met” through Twitter itself. That means that in addition to my regular circle of real-life friends, I have 535 additional people to hear me when I shout out, “Hey, anyone know anyone at Acme Corporation?” That’s going to dramatically increase my odds of having someone say, “Yeah, I do.”
Twitter is an especially easy place to get started with this, because it’s so easy to connect with people. You just click the follow button. It’s also unique in that it’s the only place I know where it’s socially acceptable to just randomly join in on a stranger’s conversation. That makes it easy to make connections, who often turn into friends. In real life, most of your friends probably are a lot like you…same age group, same music tastes, same socio-economic status, etc. On Twitter, you meet people from all across the spectrum of humanity. It really expands your horizons, and exposes you to new perspectives and points of view. That’s cool in and of itself. It also helps a lot to have such a broad range of people with different experiences to call upon when you need help.
You can do this on LinkedIn and Facebook and other sites too. You can participate in forums and message boards and all sorts of things. The more people you’re connected to, the more likely you are to find someone who can help you.
Then, once you have this huge network, when you say, “Does anyone know anyone at Acme Corporation,” you’ll eventually get a “yes.” Sometimes the person you’re talking to is in a position to get you in the door through their employee referral program. Other times, they can get you in touch with the hiring manager. Sometimes you’ll even dig up some inside scoop, like whether or not the boss is a jerk. Ex-employees are often willing to tell you what they know, and that’s always helpful. You might even find someone who had the job you’re applying for (that actually happened to me once).
Generally speaking, people like to be helpful. It makes them feel good. The larger your network, the more opportunities you have to let people help you out. Plus, you might get to return the favor, which is fun. Having more friends (and a greater variety of friends) is fun too.
Expanding your circle of friends is key to getting help when you need it. The internet makes this infinitely easier. The tools are out there—you just have to use them.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about another technique for finding an “in” at a company you want: the cry for help.