WEDDLE’s Research Factoid: The Overlooked Strategy

WEDDLE’s Research Factoid: The Overlooked Strategy

WEDDLE’s Research Factoid: The Overlooked Strategy

WEDDLE’s continuously conducts both primary and secondary research on the Best Practices in job search and career self-management. For some months now, we’ve been exploring the implications of the results generated by our 2007 Source of Employment Survey. It is the only poll that asks you-the people who are actually seeking a new or better job-to describe your experience in the job market. The survey solicits your answers to two important questions: where did you find your last job and where do you expect to find your next one? This year, our online questionnaire generated over 11,700 responses during the period January 1-August 31, 2007.

The survey found that most of us continue to use traditional methods of job search-the newspaper and career fairs, for example-even as we turn to alternative methods such as visiting job boards and the career area on company Web-sites. What’s most striking, however, is the minimal use of what is generally acknowledged to be the single best way to connect with recruiters: networking. Just one-in-ten of the respondents (10.5%) said that they found their last job by networking at work or at a business event. An even smaller percentage reported that they had used online networking, including social networking sites, in their job search.

What the Findings Mean

Put 100 career counselors in a room and ask them to identify the single most effective way to land a great job, and 98 of them will say that it’s networking. Why? For two reasons:

  • First, many of the best employment opportunities are never advertised. You won’t find them posted on job boards or even on a company’s own Web-site. Collectively, they are known as “the hidden job market.” Employers only want to interact with top candidates for these positions, and they believe the best way to find such prospects is by networking.
  • Second, because the opportunities in the hidden job market are not advertised, most people never even hear about them. Far fewer people, as a result, apply for these openings which means that there’s less competition for them. Not only are they among the best openings available at any point in time, but the odds of being the successful applicant are often better than with advertised positions.
  • So, why aren’t we devoting more time and effort to networking? And, why aren’t we tapping the power of technology and especially the Internet to make this already proven method even more useful? I think the answer to those questions turns on our perception of what networking is and how it is best accomplished.

    Networking is one of those rare words that says exactly what it means; it’s netWORK, not net-get-around-to-it-whenever-it’s-convenient. Yet, a lot of people put off their networking or don’t do it at all. Why? Because traditional networking is especially time-consuming and labor intensive. It involves meeting or speaking with someone one-on-one. The purpose of that interaction is to establish familiarity and trust so that the other person will be willing to share their access to the hidden job market. Forming that kind of connection takes time, however, and time is a precious commodity in a job search.

    We only have so many hours in the day, so it’s hard to commit to something as inefficient as networking, even with its obvious advantages. But, does ignoring it make sense given the rich opportunities in the hidden job market? I don’t think so. Then, what should you do? How can you squeeze networking in without squeezing something else out? The answer is with technology. You have to take advantage of the efficiency and the power provided by the mass one-to-one communications capability of the Internet and network online.

    Networking on the Internet or e-networking delivers:

  • efficiency because it can be done whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you. I suggest that you network online twice a week for 30 minutes at a time, but you can accomplish that task during a break at the office, from a wired coffee shop in your neighborhood or while you’re sitting at home in the evening wearing your fuzzy slippers.
  • power because it puts you in touch with many other people on an individual basis. When you add to the dialogue at a discussion forum on a professional association site or join the conversation on the bulletin board of a career portal, your contribution is read by tens and sometimes hundreds of others, all at the same time.
  • Networking online, however, can also be a waste of time, if it’s done poorly. The key is to practice the Golden Rule: network with others the way you would like them to network with you. If you want those tens or hundreds of people you meet online to share their contacts in the hidden job market with you, then you have to be willing to share your contacts with them. If you want them to be supportive of your job search, you have to be supportive of theirs. That’s why online networking (as well as its traditional form) is basically an exercise in forming relationships. If you’ve ever been in a relationship-and most of us have-you know that there are two key ingredients to making them successful: time and hard work. The Internet doesn’t eliminate the work, but it does save you time. So whether you’re looking for a job or simply advancing your career, don’t overlook networking and especially don’t overlook networking online.

    Please Note: As a part of our ongoing research, WEDDLE’s has been surveying both job seekers and recruiters on the Web since 1996. We’ve amassed hundreds of thousands of data elements probing:

  • what they do and what they don’t do,
  • what they like and what they don’t like,
  • and most importantly,

  • what they think works best.
  • To add your insights and opinions to our research, please visit the Polling Station at the WEDDLE’s Web-site.

    Section Two: For Your Consideration

    Peter Weddle has been writing columns for his own newsletter and for the interactive edition of The Wall Street Journal since 1999. The following column has been drawn from that work and updated for 2007. You can also find many of Peter’s tips and techniques in his guide WEDDLE’s WizNotes: Finding a Job on the Web and in his soon-to-be-published book, The Career Fitness Self-Fulfillment System: How to Keep Employers from Kicking Sand in Your Face.

    The Winner’s Quandary

    It’s happened to many of us. You work hard at finding a new or better job. You send out dozens, maybe even hundreds of resumes, and finally, you get a response. The interview goes well for what seems like a perfect match: you really like the employer, and its recruiter says they really like you. You’ll be getting an offer shortly, they promise, and so you wait.

    But while you do, another employer contacts you and you go through the same drill all over again. Although you don’t quite have the same enthusiasm for this organization, they actually deliver: you get an offer as you walk out the door. Not unreasonably, they also ask that you give them your answer in a week. Meanwhile, you still haven’t heard from the first employer-the one you really want to work for-so what do you do?

    I call this situation “the winner’s quandary.” Here’s my suggested game plan for how you should handle it.

    First, call the hiring manager at the organization from which you haven’t yet heard. If at all possible, call that person on their direct phone line. Second, use the following outline in your conversation with the manager, once you actually connect with them:

    Step 1: Restate your interest in the opening for which you interviewed and the contribution you believe you can make to the hiring manager’s team.

    Step 2: Explain that you’ve had an offer from another employer, that you have a tight timeline for response, and that you would prefer to work for the hiring manager if possible. Provide enough detail-the title of the position for which you have the offer or a description of the kind of work it entails, but not the name of the employer. This information will give your claim the credibility necessary for them to take it seriously. Unfortunately, hiring managers and recruiters are often jaded about such calls as candidates increasingly make false claims of having a competing offer in the hopes of prying one out of another organization.

    Step 3: Go on to say that, since you were told to expect an offer from the hiring manager’s organization in short order, you are calling to check on its status. As best you can (and without being overly dramatic), position your lack of an offer as a matter that’s personal to them. For example, you might say “I just wanted to check on the offer because I’m looking forward to working for you and to helping you get that new project off the ground.” Then, stop talking and listen.

    Step 4: If the manager confirms that you were selected and an offer is in process, ask them if they know how much longer it will be until you receive it, and if there’s anything they can do to help speed up the process. Make sure you tell the manager the date by which you must respond to the other offer, so that they can use that deadline to hammer away at the internal holdup. You should also recognize, however, that:

  • your offer is probably not the only one being processed and its position in the queue is likely to be based on timing or perceived importance to the organization;
  • offers are getting more internal scrutiny to ensure that they adhere to organizational policy and to federal and state law; and
  • there is some risk to your call as the HR Department may be displeased that you contacted the hiring manager directly.
  • Nevertheless, I think the stakes are high enough-you could lose the job you really want because of bureaucratic dallying-to make the call regardless of the other factors involved.

    Step 5: If the hiring manager indicates that the organization has changed its mind and offered the position to another candidate, accept that news as gracefully as you can and hang up. I know you’ll be disappointed and even feel as if you’ve been badly treated, but do not burn your bridges behind you by taking it out on the hiring manager. Circumstances can and often do change:

  • the person to whom they made the offer may turn it down;
  • the hiring manager may, at some later point, have another opening for which they think you are better qualified; or
  • the hiring manager may get promoted and remember you as someone they should have hired in the past.
  • In today’s ever changing workplace, you just never know what may happen, so you should always try to leave every personal interaction on a positive note.

    This process, of course, is not foolproof. Despite your proactive intervention and a positive response in Step 4, you still may not receive the offer you want before the deadline from the other employer arrives. At that point, you’re going to have to make a choice: you can accept the offer you have and make the best of it or you can turn the offer down and roll the dice with your preferred employer. The path you take should depend on:

  • your frank evaluation of your financial situation (i.e., can you afford to hold out);
  • your judgment of how important the preferred employer and its position is or will be for your career;
  • your candid self-assessment of how good a fit you really are for the opening and with the employer; and
  • your gut feeling about of how straight the organization is being with you.
  • If you aren’t absolutely positive about all four of those areas, take the offer you have, and do everything you can to be a success in that organization. If you are positive about all of them, on the other hand, waiting may be the better course of action. Do not, however, call the hiring manager again and again. They usually don’t mind getting one such call or two at the most-that shows you really are interested in the position-but they don’t like to get 3 or 4 or 5 calls-as that simply paints you as desperate … and a pest.

    Difficult as this dilemma may seem when you’re going through it, remember this very important fact: you’ve just had not one, but two employers tell you they want to hire you. That’s impressive by anybody’s standards, and it’s why I call this situation The Winner’s Quandary.

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about WEDDLE’s newsletter. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and benefit from your recommendation. And, we’ll certainly appreciate it too!

    P.P.S. Don’t forget to send us your new e-mail address if you move. Lots of people are changing jobs these days, and we want to be sure you still have the information in WEDDLE’s to help you perform at your peak. All you have to do to keep your WEDDLE’s newsletter coming is send your change of address to pwj@weddles.com.

    Section 3: News You Can Use

    Search firm BlessingWhite released the results of its State of the Career Report 2007. Based on interviews with almost 1,000 workers, it found that job stability was not a high priority in determining whether or not they would take a new job. Only 2% of the respondents said it was their make-or-break factor. Almost half (47%) said that interesting and/or meaningful work was the key issue. Indeed, the caliber of their employment experience was almost three times more important than the next factor on the list, work/life balance, which was cited by just 18% or fewer than one-out-of-five of the respondents. Other factors that were even lower on the priority list were financial reward, the opportunity for promotion, cultural fit, and a good boss. As I explain in my new book, The Career Fitness Self-Fulfillment System, the only way to increase both the paycheck and the happiness you bring home from work each day is by exercising your right to be employed where you can be challenged, accomplished and recognized on-the-job.

    TheLadders.com announced the results of its survey of business travelers and, much to my surprise and contrary to my own experience, the skies aren’t apparently all that unfriendly. More than a third (36%) said they had never missed or had to reschedule a meeting due to travel delays, and another one-in-four (27%) said they had never been forced to miss or reschedule more than one or two meetings. Given such happy outcomes, it should come as no surprise that a solid majority (53%) of these road warriors would not change jobs simply because of “excessive travel requirements” and even more (56%) said that travel would not be an issue in their deciding whether or not to take a new position. Maybe that’s because, when they were asked to point out some of the “fringe benefits” of their business travel, 18.8% said it gave them a chance to make connections that could lead to a new career opportunity, and 14.9% said it had led to a romance.

    Psychology Today published an article by contributing psychologist Judith Sills that explored the dynamics of job change. She notes that, in the past, someone who changed jobs regularly would likely have been labeled a “job hopper” and been viewed with suspicion by recruiters and hiring managers. Today, exactly the opposite is true; those who have stayed in one spot for a long period of time are apt to be viewed unfavorably by prospective employers. How can you tell when it’s time to move on? Sills recommends that you ask yourself three questions:

  • How happy are you in your current job?
  • How much can you grow professionally in your current job?
  • How does your current salary and/or level of responsibility stack up with your aspirations?
  • Those are all good questions, but I think they’re only helpful if you ask them on a regular basis. Jobs change and so do you, so I recommend that you make such an assessment every quarter during what I call a “personal performance review.” It involves evaluating the caliber of the contribution you are providing to your employer and the caliber of the experience your job and employer are providing to you.

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