After a brief and harrowing time of being unemployed, I suddenly found myself with a highly likely job prospect…and it panned out for me. After sending out countless unsolicited resumes and cover letters, it turned out that the job I got was a job that found me — not the other way around. I am now an assistant to a director in a publishing house (many English majors’ would dream of such a job — you know, the “practical” creative English position). I’m actually going to be using my degree (shocker!).
Basically, what happened was my previous supervisor for a place I interned a year ago e-mailed me about a job opening. While it was a wonderful e-mail, it would mean moving back to Boston (after such a difficult time I had deciding to move in with my boyfriend!). Of course, neither my boyfriend nor I were happy about having to return to long distance, but we both knew that since it had been so difficult to get hired since March (the time I began sending out my résumé), it would be foolish for me to turn down such an opportunity. Especially since I actually liked the place I would be working.
That was the summary of how I basically ended up employed…but the point of this entry is really to speak about how it was I came to be employed. Most people out there looking for a job are probably aware of networking, networking, networking. In 2011, Forbes reported that 41% landed a job through networking a year before. You thought that was big? Well in 2012, ABC news reported a whooping 80% of jobs are gained through networking. I still cringe when I hear the word. Honestly, I loathe networking! I feel so awkward and the entire act feels phony. But the truth is, that’s kind of how I got my job. Networking — but not in the way I thought.
So what is networking? Basically, it’s building professional relationships that will help you in your search for jobs and opportunities. And while some of that sounds forced, other times networking is remarkably simple. Like your brother’s friend who is employed at a company you’re interested in. Or your friend’s girlfriend is aware of opening in her company. Or even a mentor or ex-supervisor who is impressed with work you’ve done. These relationships end up really important for several reasons.
1. Most jobs aren’t posted.
Most jobs that are technically available out there aren’t available to the general populace. Most of us don’t try to apply to jobs that we don’t know exist. Companies like to “hire within.” In other words, they like to hire someone they already know or someone within the company who recommends an individual. This is where networking becomes a big deal. Just by someone mentioning that they know you, your cover letter and resume will make it to the top of the list. A friend old me that she got her job because her doctor knew someone in the publishing house she now works at. That’s right, her doctor helped her get her job! Just by mentioning her name. But I think those kinds of things happen a lot. Networking usually requires a lot more effort — it usually requires a substantial relationship of some kind. It’s always best if the person you’re networking with actually wants to help you.
So why do people hire an acquaintance over someone who is “perfect” for the job out there? That leads me to my second point…
2. There are too many applications!
Having the internet is great because employers can reach a wide pool of applicants all over the country. This technology is great! …in theory. The problem is that now employers often end up drowning in applications. By the three days, they might end up with as much as fifty applications. They don’t have time to read every single one (and each day there are more) AND do their job. This is why many employers would rather avoid the headache of shifting through these resumes (that’s why computers search keywords in your resumes). And so when they are presented with the possibility of a good employee through someone in the company, they jump at the opportunity.
3. But knowing someone isn’t always enough.
Ok, so by this point it sounds like if you have someone who knows someone, you’ve basically got an interview or even the job. Wrong. Of course networking might put your name at the top of the list, but you’ve still got to be qualified — or just as if not more qualified than other applicants — to get the job. Having someone put in a good word for you can only be a good thing, but then it’s up to you to demonstrate that you can actually do the job. So what’s the best way of doing that?
I know, free labor. That’s how I got my current position. I interned for this publishing house right about two years from today. It gives you work experience and it can lead to a full-time position if you do a great job and leave an impression. Moreover, it gives you (hopefully) insight into how the company works and whether or not you’re a good fit. When you’re looking for a job, it’s hard to think about turning down an offer, but often times who you work for and with affects how much you like your job, even more than what work you do.
Remember that an internship is an opportunity to learn, but think of it as a job. Demonstrate that you are more than “just another intern.” Getting the internship is the first step. What you do with it is then up to you.
5. Never Stop
Ok, so you probably knew all these things before, but networking and internships are a very good way of finding yourself that job you’ve been craving. Networking doesn’t have to be awkward interactions with near-strangers, but rather a supervisor you connected with in the past. Don’t be afraid to call them up and request some time to meet and catch up. Pick their brains for advice. Heck, see if you can do a project for them (hopefully with some compensation) that can really boost your résumé!
And know that you don’t have to get an internship to keep learning. There are so many resources out there now on the web. Learn photography, learn to code, create your own projects. It will help your morale as you work your way towards employment.
I’m grateful for my past experiences and current position, but that doesn’t mean I’m “done” learning and exploring different fields and careers. In the past few months, I’ve discovered that landing your first job really broadens your soul-searching as you try to map your way through the work world and your next move.