Networking is important, but job postings are still the bread and butter of job searches.
Networking is a critical skill for anyone looking for a job right now or planning for a job change in the future. Nothing is better than a personal reference to make a candidate credible to a potential employer or point a candidate to an opening that might not have been advertised.
The tighter the job market, common wisdom dictates, the more likely it is that hiring managers will go through personal contacts rather than posting ads and the more likely an effective networker is to snag an opportunity missed by those studying the ads.
Except, according to a member of Ladders who landed a dream job this month in financial services, a lot of the “jobs” exist mainly in the imaginations of hiring managers.
“Sharon,” a marketing executive with a background in annuities, has worked at several top Wall Street firms. She landed a dream job this month in financial services thanks to a combination of networking, keeping up with job postings online, and a variety of services that broadened her exposure to potential employers and demonstrated her value to potential employers.
She cautioned that without alternatives, personal networking can lead to frustration. “Often someone senior at an executive level will give you a tip about a job, or talk to someone about you. … You’ll hear they’re interested in creating this role or expanding such and such and they need someone,” said “The problem is that they’re not committed, or maybe they aren’t able to keep [the job open],” Sharon said. “I had many jobs that disappeared soon after I heard about them; were translated to a very junior level; or, when I asked to see a job description, turned out not to exist.”
In an effort to expand her options, “I bought the full package at Ladders,” Sharon said, including a resume rewrite and coaching services. “I had an outstanding coach. The resume service was great – we went back and forth several times because a lot of what I had done was very complex and it had to be explained right, but they knew the exact words to get the hits,” Sharon said. “And when I saw a job on Ladders, I knew it was a real job, that Ladders had done its due diligence and that the openings were real.”
Her job search, which lasted from May until early October of this year, was Sharon’s second in four years. In 2004, after helping spearhead an acquisition, she was laid off when her boss missed out on promotion to the position that would have overseen a much larger combined department. That put both the boss and Sharon on the street.
“I’d never been out of work before,” Sharon said. “All my other opportunities had come through contacts or the industry, so it was completely new to me.”
Sharon spent a lot of time calling contacts and networking and wrote a resume with the help of outplacement services. It wasn’t effective.
“I got very little response, I think because it presented me in a way that was very narrow, that didn’t take my experience and show how it was relevant to things other than exactly what I had been doing.”
Eventually she took a job in Virginia that advanced her skills and career but moved her away from her family in northern New Jersey and her career ambitions in neighboring New York. After an internal consolidation reduced Sharon’s responsibility, she decided to move back.
It took almost a year of negotiations and migration, but her previous company allowed her gradually to move back to the New York area in anticipation of a mutually agreed-upon separation.
“It was a tremendous amount of work, but it would have been detrimental to my career to be in an area I didn’t want to be,” she said of the move.
Signing up with Ladders let her take advantage of “experts who see this sort of thing all the time,” Sharon said. “I know what resumes look like of people I hire, but not always of people that are going for the kinds of jobs I am. They helped pick exactly the right words and placed [my resume] on the right sites to get the kind of results I needed.”
Placement on multiple Web sites and the carefully crafted cover letters and resume brought far more attention to Sharon’s candidacy than she’d been able to generate on her own during 2004, and she was far more confident that she was seeing all the relevant job postings without having to spend all her time searching multiple job boards, she said.
“Every day I would check Ladders and would have a customized list of jobs; I saw this position and applied for it in late August. They brought me in the last week of September and in October, and the following week they offered me the position,” she said.
Membership in Ladders didn’t mean personal networking was unnecessary, however. Through her networking efforts Sharon had made contact with an executive who worked at the company where she ended up. That link, which turned into a series of “very positive” conversations, was coincidental, but when Sharon was up for the job, her new contact was able to put in a good word and fill Sharon in on the company itself.
The job was a significant advance on her previous position, covering not only a broader product line but also international markets. And because the market is in such poor shape that both company and individual performance numbers are likely to be poor, the compensation package de-emphasized bonuses in favor of a higher base.
“They upgraded the position due to the deplorableness of the economy,” she said. “The base went up $50,000 because they can’t offer bonuses. Not only is it exciting that I get to help grow new business, but when the economy comes back, I’ll be at a much higher bonus base.”