The Truth About Networking
So you want to get a job.
You’ve done your research, you’ve read the tips. You’ve even watched a few videos and gone to a few events where esteemed professionals sit on a backless chair and talk into a mic for an hour or so. Towards the end, the inevitable: someone, either an interviewer or an audience member, asks expectantly, “So what’s your advice to young professionals starting out?”
The crowd holds its breath. With a knowing smile, The Professional leans in and speaks the magic word.
Seriously - some variation of the scenario above has definitely happened to you. There’s no doubt you’ve been told, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” at least a thousand times. Networking is the end-all, be-all trick of the trade. Having trouble getting your resume noticed? Network. Can’t find a decent job? Network.
But here’s the honest truth about networking: it very rarely works.
This may be a contradictory statement to what you’ve heard. You may even shake your head and go, “But my friend said she got hired because her friend’s friend recommended her!” And yes, while that may be true, that’s not as common as you may think.
Ask around some more; it’s probably all a “friend of a friend” stories. Probably not a lot of first hand accounts, right? That’s because at the end of the day, as frustrating as this may sound, there is no real formula as to how or why you get a job. This entropy isn’t made more contained by throwing networking into the mix, either. At my first full-time job out of college, I interacted with many publishers I connected with thinking one day, when I finally started to make the jump towards the career I wanted, they’d help me get a shoe-in. Well, that day came. I kid you not, I reached out to over one hundred people. Out of that hundred, one got me an interview (no final offer), and only ten in total responded.
As the job continued, I started to realize networking meant less the more I reached out. Some people responded, though, but again, only one person actually connected me. The big networking events you had to pay at minimum $50 for, which, being unemployed and watching my pennies, I wasn’t in the position to shell out a bunch of cash on the unlikely chance that someone might want to connect. The more I spoke to other job searchers, the more I realized they were experiencing the same exact thing. They had drank the networking Kool-Aid, only to realize just how little it led them places. Fool’s Gold, you could say.
This isn’t supposed to be disheartening, though. Believe it or not, when you come to realize the truth about networking it’s extremely freeing. You’re no longer relying on anyone else to get you a job now; you’re in total control now. You can perfect your resume, make a banging cover letter, leverage that LinkedIn and follow the real golden rule of job searching: Just. Keep. Applying. It’s surprising how much will hit and just what will stick.
The only interviews I ever got were just from applying. The job I have now? Just applied. No one helped, no phony recommendation. So keep plugging, don’t stop, and don’t give up hope. There’s a job out there for you.