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Job Seekers: Change How You Look for Work

The majority of hiring happens through referrals!

Are you spending the bulk of your job search hours connecting with people?  I know most of you are not. You spend the majority of your time submitting online applications and tweaking your resume for submission.  STOP IT TODAY!

When I was working with one job seeker, he asked what advice I had to help him improve his job search.  Simple I said, I forbid you from applying for any more jobs. Go talk to people instead!

A friend sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal, quite a fascinating read!  Job-Hunt Tips from the Depression-Era Playbook.

During the Great Depression, unemployment was above 24%.  (And we’re complaining about 9%, jeez!) Many were able to find work or created work.  This article tells the tales of some of the survivors of the depression.  Read and learn!

The article also sites a  paper presented at the Brookings Institution this March by Princeton economist Alan Krueger and Columbia Business School’s Andreas Mueller.  In their survey of over 6000 job seekers, this is what they found:

Alan Krueger Andreas Mueller paperThe body of proof is out there across so many studies…people prefer to interview and hire people they know or whom are referred by people they know.  You can argue the unfairness, but the facts are the facts!

For the next 30 days, I challenge you to drastically change how you are spending your time! If you are unemployed, you should be spending at least 35 hours a week in job search related activities!  Finding a job is a full time job.

job search hoursIt will take time and great effort on your part to make this transition.  Be patient.  You won’t feel immediate gratification. Here are some thoughts on how you can begin to make this happen:

  • Schedule time weekly to meet with people either via phone or in person (get a calendar, you are going to need it!)
  • Be sure you contact ALL your friends and family on a regular basis you remind them you are still looking with suggestions on how to help.
  • Contact all you past supervisors and managers to let them know you are looking for new opportunities.
  • Get in touch with past colleagues, vendors, and supplies and let them know.  Remember to touch base with them regularly from now on.
  • Turn every activity into an opportunity to meet new people- build relationships.
  • Attend professional association meetings or conferences or chamber of commerce events to meet people within your target companies.
  • Embrace the power of social media/networking to begin building new relationships!



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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Linda/Positive Spin August 24, 2011, 6:16 am

    This is exactly what a friend of mine needs to read. I shall send it to him straight away!
    Thanks sooo much.

    • Hannah Morgan August 24, 2011, 6:19 am

      I hope it helps your friend! Thanks for your comment!

  • Eric derby August 25, 2011, 2:40 pm

    As someone who has worked for agencies, and as a staffing consultant on the inside, I agree that referrals are absolutely the best way to find a job.

    Any internal recruiter/HR person will put an internal referral on the top of the pile. HR statistics show that the employees with the most productivity and longevity come from internal referrals.

    However, I disagree that most people should spend 40 hours per week looking for a job. Few people know how to do this, as for most people this is not their primary skill set (recruiters being the exception!). Finding a job requires a healthy balance of self-care and job search, and that is probably different for every person.


    • Hannah Morgan August 27, 2011, 6:43 am

      Thank you for validating the “top of the pile” mentality! I think few job seekers really understand this.

      Yes, I hear what you are saying about a 40 hour/week job search. I use this as a goal more than an absolute rule. If I had said, spend 30 hours a week, I don’t think that would have gotten the same “EEEEEK” response. Whatever amount of time someone can commit to their search should always be a healthy balance. Burn out is prevalent in work and in job search as well.

      I always enjoy your commentary and thank you for adding!

  • Dan Ryan August 27, 2011, 10:04 am

    You are so right with the advice in this post. I am a volunteer for a career transition group here in the Nashville area and we see this kind of “upside down” thinking by job seekers all of the time.
    Post and pray will not lead to the promised land!

    Dan Ryan
    Ryan Search & Consulting

  • Lilian August 28, 2011, 8:43 am

    Definitely agree with you on this thinking. I advice people to use a kind of tripod model with three key and complementary points:

    – being liked
    – being trusted
    – being an expert in one field

    This leads us to the more visible importance of soft skills too.

    Have a great weekend 🙂

    • Hannah Morgan August 29, 2011, 4:32 am

      Thanks for sharing your tripod model! When individuals build upon these three legs (sooner rather than later) they will find the process of transitioning into new opportunities SO much easier. Build it before you need it…your reputation that is!

      Always love hearing your wisdom!

  • Joseph Gruber January 3, 2012, 9:14 am

    So what are some tips on how to approach people, either friends or “unknown” individuals, in regards to a job search? I would think you wouldn’t just want to blurt out “Hey, do you have any job openings?”. What’s the best way to ask your friends/colleagues to refer you and also to ask new contacts found via networking to help?

    • Hannah Morgan January 3, 2012, 12:19 pm

      While your question seems so simple from the outside, it is actually quite complicated!
      Everyone you approach (network with) should be treated differently.
      If you are connecting with an old co-worker, show interest in them FIRST. Ask about them, their job, their life, their family.
      Guess what will happen next?
      They will ask about your life. Without going back and rehashing all the junk, talk instead about what you want to do next and specific companies you would like to work for.

      Here is one post that might help get you started: http://careersherpa.net/you-dont-need-to-confess-you-are-unemployed/

      Here is another one: http://careersherpa.net/the-slow-but-steady-route-to-your-next-job/

      They key is for you to be specific about what you are looking for- you are NOT asking about a job opening.

      • Paul Cecala January 3, 2012, 6:23 pm

        you give some great advice in this article.

        Joseph, as a career coach myself, I have found that if we change the networking perspective from “how can you help me get a job?” to “what is your most difficult challenge at work? Let me offer some ways to help you with that.” This perspective switch seems to make it easier for people to effectively network. Instead of feeling like I am begging for help; I am proud and glad to offer my expertise in helping. It may seem like a small change; but it has a real big impact on both you and the other person.

        • Hannah Morgan January 4, 2012, 4:57 am

          YES! Being a “solution provider” not a job-seeker is one great way to get the ball rolling! It requires developing the right set of questions to uncover needs and excellent listening skills! Act like a consultant!

          The other suggestion I would add is to be “other-centric”. In other words, ask good questions of the people you are meeting with. Uncover their interests, needs, concerns (professionally and personally). Eventually they will ask about you and your interests and now they are much more interested in what you have to say because you’ve listened to them! Funny how people are wired, isn’t it?!

          Thanks Paul for your wisdom!

  • George S. January 3, 2012, 5:34 pm

    Hi Ms. Morgan,

    I’m looking to relocate (and therefore switch companies). I’m trying to be better about networking during this job search compared to the previous one. A few problems I am having are:

    – I don’t have a big network that is related to my career field in a reasonable way.
    – I don’t have a big network in my destination city.
    – When I do ask friends with potential networks for advice and help, they don’t have a lot of leads or it doesn’t seem to click with them that they can help me.
    – When I get a number of a good contact, I’m worried about over-contacting them. How often is too often?
    – I am unavailable to talk during the traditional work hours.. Therefore, email is much better for me.

    Those are just some of the many facets of networking that I haven’t found great answers to.

    Thank you,


    • Hannah Morgan January 4, 2012, 4:52 am

      Great questions and ones that people relocating struggle with a lot! You’ve already taken the first step by identifying the areas you’ll want to begin developing! Great! So here are some suggestions.

      * Who are the “movers and shakers” in your career field (think nationally)? Read industry newsletters and join industry or occupational groups on LinkedIn that have active discussions!
      * Have you contacted the Chamber of Commerce in your destination city? Is their a listing of Top 100 employers? Begin researching who the key players are.
      * When you talk to friends about your search, are you specific in what information you are looking for? (do you ask about specific companies they may be familiar with or people they may know who work at the companies you’ve named?) The more specific you are in your request for INFORMATION (not job leads per se) the more help they will be able to offer.
      * One technique used by good sales professionals is to always ask or set the expectation of when you will be following up next. If you do this consistently, you’ll be a man of your word, not “over-contacting”. Having said this, there are no absolute rules on what is “too much” or “too often”, so use your best judgement.
      * You could be available to talk during traditional working hours on occasion, if you needed to, right? In some instances, speaking with people via phone just works better. Can you use your personal mobile phone during lunch to make a couple of follow up calls?

      I hope you are active and have a robust LinkedIn profile. This tool can be very effective in expanding your network, especially once you know who you want to connect to and why! ALWAYS customize the invitation to connect you send!

      So these are just some of my quick answers. I have addressed many of them in past posts, so I hope you have the chance to dig around my site a bit!

      Thanks so much for your questions, hope this helped!

  • Paul Cecala January 3, 2012, 6:38 pm

    Hi Hannah:

    Here are some additional stats to prove your point.

    A NJ Dept. of Labor survey of people who found work in 2007 (latest year for which I can get stats) showed the following results:
    38% found their job going directly to the employer
    27% found the job through talking to friends, family and other acquaintances.
    15% were hired through an agency, school career counselor or other recruiting professional
    10% were hired off an internet ad (mostly IT professionals)
    6% got the job at a job fair
    4% hired through a want ad.

    Add up those options that involve talking to people (direct + friends, etc + agencies + job fair =86%) and it becomes very clear that we should spend 86% of our job search time on personal communication and contact. Only 14% of our time spent on other activities.

    I suspect that today the numbers might change slightly, especially if one considers researching openings on a company’s website as the primary internet activity versus job board and aggregators like Ideal.com, Monster.com, Craig’s list and other sites.

    Many of my clients say they are networking when spending time online on LinkedIn. I suggest that LinkedIn is GREAT for making introductions and “meeting” people; but connecting on LinkedIn does not make a relationship – it may begin one at best.

    • Hannah Morgan January 4, 2012, 5:02 am

      @Paul and @Joanne:

      LinkedIn rocks when used as the first step to building relationships! So do Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Any tool that allows us access to learning more about other people (what they are doing and saying) can help us build a bridge to a relationship that can be mutually beneficial!

      It isn’t what you know, but who you know…and second, it isn’t who you know, but who knows YOU that matters!

      Always be building and nurturing your network and relationships…it is the best career insurance policy ever!

  • Joanne Black January 3, 2012, 7:53 pm

    Hi Paul:

    Great stats. Thanks for your perspective on social media. LinkedIn is a perfect vehicle for finding our who people are, who they know, and how you’re connected. Then you need to pick up the phone and talk.

    Referrals are your path to success whether you are looking for a job, looking for clients, or looking for a date.

    Your friends and colleagues will be glad to help you, but you must let them know how. Be as specific as possible about the kind of job you want and the capabilities you bring to the table. If there’s a certain company you want to work for, let them know.

    And always ask your contact to introduce you. That’s the definition of a referral. Without an introduction, you’re making a cold call. (And no one will pay attention to you with that approach.)

  • Mat D. January 10, 2012, 10:25 am

    Hello. This is a very informative article that really opened my eyes. I’m a recent college graduate trying to find a job in the IT industry. My problem is that I don’t have any connections within the industry. I have a LinkedIn profile but have very few connections within the industry. I’m trying to expand my connections but am finding it very frustrating. Any advice or helpful tools would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Hannah Morgan January 15, 2012, 5:19 am

      Have you created a list of 10 or more companies that you would like to work for? Once you do this, you can begin looking for ways to meet people who work for them.
      The other thing you may try is attending IT related meetings in your city/area. Most likely you’ll find them listed in the newspaper, but you can ask around too!
      Joining IT related groups on LinkedIn is another good way to build IT business intelligence.
      Did you have an internship? Reach out to those people and see who they suggest you speak with.
      There is no “silver bullet”! It takes time and effort to build a network and contacts.

      Let’s see what others have to say….