Human connections still rule, even in the digital-saturated era of online job searches, the networking website LinkedIn, and checking out job candidates on Facebook.
Social media is just a tool to learn about somebody, said Teresa Daly, a founder and CEO of Navigate Forward, which works with professionals in search of their next jobs. Networking is still more important.
That goes whether youre just trying to meet and stay in touch with folks in your field who one day may serve as a reference or an employer, or youre in an earnest job search.
Your time should be spent about 30 percent online and 70 percent networking with people, Daly said. Networking for a job is about connecting with the right people in the right positions with the right message. You have to be able to say, Heres what Ive done and heres what Im looking for.
Job candidates still need to have the basic qualifications for the positions theyre seeking. It doesnt help to network for a financial analyst position if youre a zoologist and lack the basic skills.
Increasingly, applications are taken online. And its tough to pierce the HR hiring wall applicants cant control that. However, job counselors say, networking allows job seekers to set up their own informal groups of contacts who may know somebody or who can help them get the coveted human interview at the company at which they are applying, or another company.
Networks can be woven through informational interviews, professional and trade associations, asking peer groups if they know anybody at a particular company, or even volunteering, a way to do some good while you meet people and showcase talent. It may also be smart to take classes or seek a certification in your area of focus.
Its imperative that job seekers and others even casually interested first research new careers and companies using online tools, informational interviews and other means.
Eric Harkins, an executive vice president of Navigate Forward who has held operations and HR jobs at Target, Best Buy, G&K Services, the Nerdery and other companies has used networking to advance his career as well as help others.
Harkins recalled that back in 2009, during the Great Recession that claimed millions of American jobs, he was an HR manager at G&K Services, then assisting in letting go hundreds of employees for the uniform-and-laundry company. After that, he was laid off.
He subsequently had a conversation with a recruiter at UnitedHealth Group. He also mined his network of former colleagues and associates to help him get his resume inside UNH for a variety of jobs. Nothing. Several months later, though, an old acquaintance at Best Buy told him that she was meeting with a hiring manager at the Optum data-analysis unit of UNH. She carried Harkins resume and referred him. Harkins got a job he had sought.
On my first day, my new boss said I wish we had met six months ago, Harkins recalled. I said Me, too. We could have been celebrating my six-month anniversary! The point is the more people you know (inside a company where you seek employment) who can walk down the hall and say Hey, Ive met this guy and he sure seems like a genuine person, the better for you. Thats better than LinkedIn.