Finding a job (well, the right job) isn’t easy. You can spend months, even years looking for the perfect position while you toil away for a boss you hate or doing something you despise. There are a million ways to blow it, too. You can whiff the interview. Your resume may be poorly formatted and isn’t getting any attention from hiring managers. You might simply be unqualified.
Yet, people who are unqualified get good jobs all the time. We’ve all been passed over for a job, raise, or promotion by someone who seemingly doesn’t deserve it. Why is that, and how can you exploit the same weaknesses in the system?
You have probably heard the old adage that, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, as it turns out, that might actually be the key. You just have to look at the data.
A new iteration of LinkedIn’s annual Global Recruiting Trends report confirms it. According to that report, the top source of quality hires for businesses over the past year has been employee referral. Employers and HR departments are listening to their employees, and hiring the people they recommend. So, it truly is who you know, it seems.
That’s not to say that other methods aren’t effective, either. But the report does show that referrals carry extra weight — and if you’re serious about landing the job you want, networking is integral to landing it.
Referrals: Your foot in the door
“The stats below illustrate the rise and reign of employee referrals,” the report said. “It’s no surprise that more and more companies are starting to develop programs like these, given that referred employees are faster to hire, perform better, and stay longer in the company.”
As you can see, referrals top the list here. That means networking and building contacts is incredibly important to your job search. But take a look at some of the other items on the list — social professional networks, internal hires, and recruiters are also prominent. These also require some work on the networking front.
If you’re trying to pull any career advice out of this, it should be this: Get out there and network.
Employers spend a huge amount of time and money trying to attract the right candidates. They want to hire people who are going to fulfill their duties, provide value to the organization, and stick around. The challenge for job seekers is convincing an employer through a resume and cover letter that they’re willing and capable of doing those things.
It becomes a whole lot easier to convince them if you have someone vouching for you. Someone on the inside, who is already trusted.
Build your network: The best career advice
If you’re convinced that networking and building contacts are important to landing the job you want, you’ll want to get started as soon as you can. The good news is that you probably already have a network and a number of contacts. You also probably have some sort of social media platform up and running (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) that can help you organize your efforts.
If you don’t, it’ll be a setback. But one that is easily overcome.
If you haven’t already, put together a LinkedIn profile, or put together some sort of online presence. Use WordPress or Squarespace to create a portfolio or personal site. Put your resume out there. Make it easy for people to find you. You don’t need to live-Tweet your personal comings and goings necessarily, but you do want people (colleagues, recruiters, future employers) to be able to track you down.
Essentially, this gives you the ability to control the message. People will get to know you before they ever meet you. When you meet new people, it’s easier to exchange information and keep in touch.
Next — get out of your shell. Go to networking events. Join your co-workers for happy hour. Go to industry conferences. Get out there and meet people. People who can help you get a foot in the door for future jobs. These are those referrals that are so valuable. You’re simply planting the seed.
And who knows? Possibly making some new friends, and meeting great people. If there’s one takeaway, it’s this: If you’re not willing to take a step out, it’s going to cost you. Work on your network, and see what opportunities it opens up for you.