One of the things I was most surprised by when I got into the jobs business over a decade ago was the prevalence and practice of age discrimination in hiring right here in the USA. Oh, sure... we're not like some overseas markets where job ads explicitly demand youth, or a particular gender, or beauty(!), in the applicant, but there it is...
One piece of advice that just about every career resource out there gives: Tap into your alumni network.
Have you ever noticed … no one gives you tips on exactly how to do so? So this networking advice — without additional guidance about how to access your alumni network properly (what to ask, and what to avoid) — leads most people to gain little help from an alumni network.
A large part of the problem stems from changes in the job market and hiring practices. Prior to 2007, there were candidate shortages, so random networking was more effective. When there were candidate shortages, you could make lots of mistakes, you could use terribly ineffective techniques … and still find a job. A job search during candidate shortages was so easy, basically anyone could find a job.
In addition, many random networking techniques worked then because employers had formal and informal policies to interview every candidate who was referred by an internal employee — qualified candidates were hard to come by and at least someone within the company was saying nice things. Many of these policies were eliminated due to changes in government regulations. Rather than choosing interviewees based on who the candidate knew, employers realized they could avoid disastrous government penalties by running all resumes through an applicant tracking system (ATS), selecting applicants based on more objective criteria.
The reason that there are so many networking missteps is simply because you've never been told they were mistakes — they used to work, mistake or not. Fortunately, there's a better way, which I'll show you. First, let's start by identifying common mistakes job seekers make when reaching out to alumni networks:
This list of don'ts should open your eyes to just how much effective job search networking techniques have changed in the past few years.
When there was a shortage of candidates, job search networking was relatively easy. All you had to do was ask enough people for a job and pass around enough resumes … you'd generate enough interviews to land your next job. Job shortages, mass job competition and federal hiring laws have made the easy networking of the pre-2007 job market ineffective.
However, there are a number of networking methods that few candidates use that can be very effective in today's job market, despite all the changes.
Next time I'll describe a number of effective alumni networking techniques that you can use now to gain interviews and job offers in today's hyper-competitive job market.