Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on April 29, 2009
With the economy in turmoil, many MBA graduates are finding the job search tough going. To give readers some insight into the strategies they’re pursuing and the difficulties they face, BusinessWeek has recruited four out-of-work MBAs to write about their experiences for a new feature called “The Hunt” that will appear periodically on the Getting In blog. Comments, as always, are welcome.
By Michael Janger
In a recent article, I wrote about pursuing my dream, regardless of the challenging conditions in one of the largest recessions in recent history. As companies retrench and jobs become scarce – especially in my field of expertise – it can be discouraging to pursue the dream. However, from an employer’s perspective, there is nothing more attractive than a prospective employee who is working hard to achieve the dream that will define his career. Often, this person will want to talk to his peers, colleagues, and mentors about the kinds of jobs, experience, and skills he will need to achieve his dream. That, in my mind, is the most effective networking anyone can do.
In real estate, the three most important things for brokers are location, location, and location. The same analogy can be applied to the job search: the three most important things a prospective worker should do are network, network, and network. As clichéd as it is, it is generally true. If you do well at networking, employers will see it in everything you do, and give you every chance to compete for the open job. If you do not make the effort to network, you will find your opportunities restricted to the jobs for which you apply directly – which is just the same as cold-calling which is more difficult to carry out and ultimately less effective. Certainly, if you have the qualifications, you may find it easier than you would expect to get the job, and you would not need to do an extensive amount of networking. But for the majority of job searchers, the only way they can get a real job that they want and like is through networking.
The job search is a complicated, full-time job in itself. There are many facets to this “job”: creating and refining your resume, researching for posted jobs, gathering information on job trends, researching companies you’re interviewing for, writing and refining cover letters and thank-you’s, maintaining a large and diverse list of contacts, and so on. It is daunting. Yet, all these tasks have a common theme, and that is networking. It is about interacting with people to collect the information you need, selling them on your qualifications and accomplishments, and ultimately closing the sale.
The most common mistake some job searchers make is treat the job search as a massive resume dump to the biggest and most common companies in the country. It works but only up to a point. It is essentially investing all your resources into a part of the job search that will not necessarily give you the best returns. If, as I said in my first article, 70% of jobs are found through networking, then the most optimal amount of time and resources you should devote to networking should be 70% of the total. By investing everything into simply sending applications to companies with no networking follow up, you lower your chance of getting a job to 30%.
It can be significantly harder to network if you are out of a job, as opposed to actually having a job where it is easier to leverage your current role to find the next opportunity. But regardless of your mindset as an unemployed person, it is critical to always network anytime, anywhere. When I was laid off once before, from Thomson Reuters in 2002 when the company eliminated my division, it was the first time in my professional career I ever experienced what it was like to be on my own without a job. It was a strange feeling. I found myself at cocktail parties and get-togethers with not much to say, as my friends chatted about their jobs and what they discussed around the water cooler. It did not do much for my self-esteem, as I was deeply embarrassed about my inability to come up with something, let alone an on-the-job story. So I withdrew from social events and focused inward -- and found it harder to find jobs as I dropped out of networking. I was fortunate to land my next job because of networking in spite of my mindset at that time – a lucky break more than anything else, and which illustrates the power of networking.
I am taking that lesson to heart now by being proactive and out-of-the-box in my networking, no matter how difficult the circumstances are today. This does not involve applying solely to typical finance jobs (a risky proposition in today’s times), but also breaking out of the mold by seeking non-finance roles and developing potential contracting engagements. It is about applying an entrepreneurial mindset to the job search. In fact, I would say the job search is a real-life exercise in entrepreneurship. Any person who is not employed is a free agent. As such, a free agent is open to any and all offers, and has the flexibility and the time to create something on one’s own if he or she so desires. But to make this work, he or she has to network.
Don’t be shy about networking. The competition is brutal, especially today, so it is important to go all out and get the information, leads, and feedback you need, and use them to your advantage in getting your next job.