Networking is the Toughest Job-Search Component Out of 4

It comes as no surprise that networking is the toughest component of the job search. This is according to a poll I conducted on LinkedIn. The other poll options were interviewing, writing resumes, and interacting with recruiters.

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What the results reveal is that oral communications is most difficult for job seekers. Clearly networking and interviewing require one to express their value, both in technical and soft skills. But writing a resume and communicating with a recruiter in writing also require the ability for one to express their skills.

Nonetheless, when the rubber meets the road, it’s the ability to interact with fellow networkers and interviewers that brings home the banner. Is this an extravert/introvert thing? Not necessarily.

Although, it’s believed that introverts are the better of the two at writing, and extraverts excel in oral communication. (One fault of the survey was not specifying that interacting with recruiters means doing it in writing.) Regardless, I think we can all agree that networking and interviewing are tough.

Networking

With networking comes the realization that results aren’t immediate. It’s about building relationships and being willing to give, as well as take. This is tough for someone who is trying to secure a job to comprehend. Sure, networking while working is also hard to do, but for many the stakes aren’t as high.

Take this scenario: you’re at a large networking event where it resembles herding cattle. The first person you approach is ready to deliver their elevator pitch. She stuns you with her elevator pitch, but you are not practiced at delivering yours, rendering you speechless.

Kevin Turner, comments on the value of networking:

‘Networking Always Beats Not Working!’ This holds true whether we are looking for a job or not. By focusing on building mutually beneficial relationships, we open up greater exposure, and that leads to greater opportunities. Networking isn’t easy for many, until they experience the doors that it opens. My advise for Job Seekers is dive in to networking.”

This statement is easier said than done for many job seekers I come across, who see a networking event as “What’s in it for me?” With this attitude, their efforts are fruitless. Other people in the room or on a Zoom call can smell this a mile away and will reject said person.

If you’re the exception to the rule, you’ll be much more successful in your networking efforts. You realize that immediately asking for help from the first person you meet is the wrong way to approach networking. As mentioned earlier, this is a slow process that might begin before you start looking for work.

Look at this scenario Laura Smith-Proulx describes:

If you continually push yourself out of your comfort zone and into places where people realize your value as a professional, that’s networking. Then, when you reach out and let others know you are seeking work, the pieces fall into place more easily. Yes, there are times when your industry is faltering or a recession is looming or other troubles arise, but regular relationship-building (combined with continued upskilling and volunteering for new challenges) WILL work in the long run.

Interviewing

Do you remember the first time you interviewed? Chances are you arrived to the interview unprepared. You didn’t research the position and company as extensively as you should have and, therefore, had a difficult time answering the questions.

Or perhaps you did fine.

Orlando Haynes, asserts that most job seekers find the toughest component of the job search is interviewing:

Being in Talent Acquisition for 20 years now. Interviewing is where I see the biggest gap across all levels of professionals. I would spend time developing strong interview skills.

Is this easier said than done? There are job seekers who will put in the time researching the position and company, but how many will spend time developing strong interview skills? Be honest with yourself. Are you anticipating the questions that will be asked, writing them down, and practicing answering them?

I recall one job seeker who took the time doing this. But she wrote down typical interview questions and the answers to them; not specific job-related questions. The thought of doing this is probably the reason why interviewing came in second as the toughest component of the job search.

Teegan Bartos writes that job seekers might be more confident in their interviewing ability than they should:

“And interviewing is probably what people say they feel the most confident in but anyone who’s ever been in a position to interview people before can tell you that’s the opposite of what they see.”

I concur with this assessment. Interviewing is tough. There’s a lot riding on the interview. These days, the interview process can involve multiple meetings via phone, video, in-person, and presentations. We’ve all heard of candidates who went through as many as 11 interviews (Jack Kelly wrote a popular post on this topic).

Writing a resume

To a person an executive resume writer would say writing a resume is difficult, but most (the good ones at least) would say it’s not the most difficult component of the job search. This aligns with the results of the poll, where this component ranked third as the toughest job-search component.

Laura Smith-Proulx agrees and writes:

Writing a resume is tough, especially for people with long, complex leadership careers (my specialty), but networking is very difficult when job seekers aren’t sure a) what it is; and b) how to do it without feeling like they’re asking for a job.

But to say writing a resume is easy would be ridiculous. I’ve come across resumes from executives that are full of fluff or are overly technical and, basically, show no value. This is how some people think:

  • I’m dynamic, therefore I am, or
  • I’ve used every software language under the sun, so I need to list them, or
  • I have to list every duty I’ve performed because this will impress the employer, or
  • All of the above.

Another misconception is that the job search starts with the resume. This is understandable, as the resume is an important document that is required by all employers. But in order to write a solid resume, a job seekers needs to know what the employer’s pain point is. Ergo, networking.

Communicating with recruiters

This poll was born because of a guest speaker event, where I interviewed a recruiter named Marisol Maloney. The guest speaker event was a result of a post she wrote on how to reach out to a recruiter.

As I mentioned earlier, reaching out to a recruiter is usually done in writing, which can happen via email or LinkedIn messaging. So this is probably why this option came in dead last as the toughest component of the job search.

The writing approach is more passive than communicating with recruiters via phone or in person. Angela Watts points out that, “at a certain point, the Recruiter is going to want to have a conversation.” This is a valid point.

Back to reaching out to a recruiter via writing: Marisol Maloney gives the following account as an improper way to contact a recruiter:

“‘Can you look at my resume and let me know if it qualifies for any positions your company may have available. I’m seeking positions in (state/city).'” in which I have no roles available. They would know that I don’t have any roles available in their desired location if they’d just looked at the website.

The mistake many job seekers make is assuming that a recruiter works for them, when it’s quite the opposite. Marisol suggest the following as better verbiage to use:

Hi (recruiter’s name), my name is Jane Doe and I saw on your LI post/careers page that you are looking for a Physical Scientist in Lorton, VA. I have an active security clearance and 10 years of experience as a Scientist and am interested in applying for that role. I do have a question about (state your specific question that has not been answered already by the job description).

Of course once a conversation is started with email or LinkedIn direct messaging, it must continue via phone or in person. Perhaps the reason this option ranked last is because not everyone communicates with recruiters.

Nonetheless, the other three options: networking, interviewing, and writing a resume are tough aspects of the job search. More than a few people commented that all four components stump them. I understand their frustration.

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