This is part 3 of Kosmo’s job search journey. While this article stands well by itself, it will be even better if you read You’re Fired (Part 1) and Assessing the Situation (Part 2) for the full context.
I’ll share a secret with you: I’m terrible at networking. Mostly, I hate asking people for favors. The local grocery store has someone push the cart out to your car (yep, it’s you, Fareway) – you don’t have the option of pushing your own cart. Most people love the service, but I’m so uncomfortable with this that I’m the guy attempting to carry ten bags out to the car.
Unfortunately for me, networking plays a key role in many job searches these days. Knowing someone can be critically important to getting your foot in the door.
The social networking du jour for job seekers is LinkedIn. The announcement that my former company was going to eliminate teleworkers wasn’t a complete surprise. Prior to the announcement, I felt there was probably a 50% chance it was going to happen. So I had set up a LinkedIn account, but not done much. Since the announcement, I’ve been feverishly “connecting” to people on LinkedIn and asking colleagues to “endorse” my skills. After all, these are the people who have worked with me over the years, so they have the best understanding of what I’m capable of doing. One step beyond endorsing is to give a “recommendation” – a free text blurb about the person.
Find a Job Search Partner
Coincidentally, a friend of mine was looking for a job at the same time. Let’s call him Bryan, because that’s his name. Bryan was working at corporate headquarters. He and I had worked very closely in the past, supporting an aging system that we kept alive barely long enough to be replaced. The circumstances forced us to be in almost constant contact. I was continuously monitoring the system and was communicating any bad news to Bryan so that he’d be prepared to inform the tens of thousands of users of any adverse impacts.
Bryan’s wife landed an important job with an employer in my area. Our employer wouldn’t allow him to become a teleworker, so he started looking for a new job a couple months ago. I’d tried to give him some help, introducing him to a local colleague who had some connections.
When I learned that I needed to find a job, I piggybacked pretty heavily on Bryan’s experience. I mentioned the companies that I was looking at, to see if I was overlooking anyone. I shamelessly asked for specifics on a variety of topics, including the probably salary for the role. I flooded his Facebook IM box. After all, Bryan and I were looking for the same type of role, in the same industry, in the same local area. If I could learn from his experiences, I’d be a step ahead of the game. The was no point in trying to reinvent the wheel.
Some people might say that finding a job search partner and trying to help each other might be counter-productive. What if they get the job that would have otherwise gone to you? This is only an issue if you were the top two candidates for the job, which is somewhat unlikely. Most often, using each other as a sounding board will help both of you.
Up to this point, it sounds like the relationship with Bryan was pretty one-sided. I was doing all the asking and he was doing all the answering. Things changed a bit when I applied for a job at a local company. It turns out that not only had he applied (several weeks prior) but he was going on site for an interview the next day.
Network, Network, Network
I went into turbo mode, trying to find other people who could help us. While coaching my kid’s football team, it occurred to me that a guy a few houses down worked in HR for this company. We weren’t exactly friends, but we were always pleasant to each other. After the game (and after his NFL team’s game was over) I dropped by his house and chatted about the situation. I mentioned that Bryan had applied, and talked him up. My neighbor wasn’t in charge of the hiring for this position, but he worked right next to the guy who was.
After a few conversations with colleagues, I remembered that one colleague’s husband worked for the company. It turns out that he was good friends with an analyst that was on the interview panel. I mentioned that Bryan and I were both applying for the job. She also knew Bryan, and was happy to have her husband talk to his friend about us.
Success… of Sorts
The next week, there was good news. Bryan got the job we were both trying for. There were two positions, and both were now filled. I was the victim of bad timing. By the time I applied (the night I got the bad news), they had already picked the candidates to bring on site. Nonetheless, I was happy for Bryan. He was a good guy, and I knew he’d be a great fit for the job. Also, it meant that I know had an ally inside the company.