Networking vs. applying online – which is better?

I recently surveyed 100 people in my network and extended network. I asked them one simple question: How did you get your last job?

These were the choices I gave:

  • from an online posting
  • from someone I know/introduction from someone I know
  • promoted from internship or co-op job
  • headhunter/recruiting agency
  • other

Respondents could select only one of the choices I provided. I’ll be honest, I had a bias going in, and my bias panned out. Here are the results:

51 percent of respondents got their last job from someone in their network – either a hot connection or a warm connection (see my last post if you don’t know what this is). This number includes people who chose the “other” category because they wanted to select two of the options provided. These people both knew someone at the organization and completed an application.

For the job I am in currently, this is exactly what happened. I both had a referral from someone I knew, and I completed an application to an open position. From there, the interview process was up to me. But I had a lot of things working in my favour over other applicants because I had a connection established.

Even how I heard about the position shows the power of my network. A former professor of mine from the University of Waterloo sent me an e-mail and said, “this sounds like a job up your alley.” We hadn’t spoken in 2 years! His daughter worked at the organization as a Summer Intern, she forwarded the position to him, and he passed it onto me.

Why do I show you this graph and stress so much the importance of your network? Well, it is to persuade you not to spend 100% of your time and energy on the posted job market.

If you learn one thing from me, I hope it is this: spend MUCH LESS time on the posted job market and MUCH MORE time on networking. This is both to find your first job as well as make a job or career change.

I recently asked my career coach what amount of time he recommends job seekers or career changers spend on networking vs. the posted job market. He said 80% vs. 20%. This seems fair to me, in fact, I was almost expecting him to say 100 percent networking because of how much he instilled this in me!

Spend 80% of your time networking vs. 20% applying to jobs.

I know this may come as a shock to some new graduates to hear, because trust me, I was there. Anyone who has spent their life in ‘formal’ education knows that you only got anywhere by completing detailed, mandatory applications. I did it for university, for co-op placements, scholarships, bursaries, volunteer trips, etc. It only makes sense that you would gravitate towards putting yourself out there on paper. That is where your credentials and your experience can be seen all at once.

What networking provides for you though, is the ability to be in control of your own story. Does your resume tell me everything I need to know about you? Or want to know about you? Certainly not. Perhaps I want to market myself as a communicator, but my resume only shows my experience working in engineering jobs? What if my education took me down one path, but I realized I didn’t like it? I need to re-brand myself. And to do that, I need to tell my story. I can’t have others interpreting my skill set – I have to tell them myself.

I’m suggesting a fundamental shift in the way you look for work – and it’s based on people, not paper.

If you are unsure about how to get started – tell me what is holding you back? I would love to hear what you think about networking. And I would love to help if I can.

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