Networking, Affinity Contacts, Informational Interviewing

If you were able to identify people who are doing what you think you might like to do, you could find out what they like and don't like about their job or career. You could interview them to find out what you might like or dislike about their job or career--before you obtained a job interview. Then you would know what that job or career required, and plan what parts of your experience, or which enjoyable skills, would be most fitting to emphasize.

You may reach a point in your Informational Interviewing when you have defined your goals and interviewed knowledgeable people in your chosen field, but you have not yet obtained a job. What you need are more contacts, that is, people who know people who may have a job for you.

Techniques that use personal contacts are the most successful. Studies at Harvard University by sociologist Mark Granovetter examined professionals who successfully changed jobs. Three-fourths of the successful job seekers obtained their employment through their own initiative and personal solicitations to potential employers. For comparison, the "standard" methods, such as use of ads, employment agencies and recruiters, and "others" accounted for less than ten percent each of total successful job landings. U.S. Department of Labor and other studies confirm and elaborate these findings.

Here are the most common methods by which employers find employees in order of priority and success:

  1. Word-of-mouth contacts, employee referrals, networking
  2. Internal job postings
  3. College/high school recruitment
  4. Search firms, employment agencies
  5. Check callback files
  6. Want ads

Here are the ways most people search for jobs:

  1. Classified/want ads
  2. Applications at personnel departments
  3. Recruiters, headhunters, agencies
  4. High school/college placement
  5. Direct mailings

If you scrutinize these two lists, you will see that people looking for jobs should use word-of-mouth contacts, employee referrals, networking. Most job-seekers or career-changers don't do this because it is much harder than sending out many resumes, which turns out to be much easier -- but extremely ineffective.

Networking and Informational Interviewing can lead you to understand the current marketplace for jobs (and new career directions) because the people that you meet provide a network of relationships to other people, whose network of relationships may include a person who has a job for you. Research shows that you are about three to five people away from the person you want to meet who is a key to your next job opportunity. For example, you may not realize that your own contacts or circle of acquaintances may include at least two hundred individuals. If each contact knows two hundred others, each of whom knows two hundred more, your "contact pool" is a combined network of about eight million individuals.

"The people who are your very close friends might have motivation to give you information about available jobs, but if they are in your own close circle, they are getting the same information as you are," says Mark Granovetter.

Acquaintances culled from a wide circle of contacts may not be as motivated to lend a hand, but they might do so because, "often it is not very costly for them to share information" about jobs.

Think of distant cousins, rarely seen, who treat you with consideration because you are 'family'.

But how do you "convert" a never-seen distant cousin, or contact, or lead, or friend of friend who knows more than you know, and who could help if convinced of the necessity to do so, to actually empty his or her rolodex in your lap, or introduce you to your next boss?


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