I always loved that scene in the film Pretty Woman where the newly groomed Julia Roberts returns, laden with expensive carrier bags, to the boutique that had refused to serve her when she was dressed in scruffy denim and looking like, well, a hooker. Julia shrugs her Vuittons and Chanels at the salesclerk and grins. “Big mistake. HUGE mistake.”
I remember that scene whenever I hear someone advising job seekers to network their way to their next job.
The networking dance
First, let’s be clear about what networking means. Networking means that you talk to your friends and colleagues, and then you talk to friends and colleagues of your friends and colleagues, and then you talk to their friends and colleagues and so on until you finally hit an employer who actually would be interested in hiring you.
It’s hard to deny – and I don’t – that networking can be the path to finding jobs. In fact, the generally-accepted insight is that 2/3 to 3/4 of professionals and executives, and about a third of blue collar, entry, and clerical level workers find jobs via networking.
The way the chaotic, mostly un-systematic recruitment world works today, jobseekers would be foolish not to network to find a job. So it would seem.
But, what matters is not finding a job. It’s finding the right job.
The networking math
Focusing on networking narrows your options. Let’s do the math:
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- In the U.S. alone, 4 to 5 million new jobs are filled every month. There are, for example, more than half a million marketing jobs listed on Internet job boards at present, and 100,000 website developer jobs open – in both cases, I hasten to add, NOT including non-announced jobs that will most probably be filled by internal transfers and which represent the large majority of open jobs.
- There are 124 million searches for “jobs” on Google every monthThere are over 1 million searches for “marketing jobs” every month, over 2 million for “sales jobs”, nearly 700,000 searches for “accounting jobs”… you get the idea.
- There are well over 1 million private sector organizations in the U.S. that employ 10 or more workers.
- The average person has over 100, let’s say 120 Facebook friends, maybe 60 contacts on LinkedIn (LinkedIn won’t reveal the real number) plus around 100 friends and 400 acquaintances. Assuming you are like that and that your networking takes you two degrees of separation from 20 percent of those 400 people, and that the number of people aware of each job opening is…
- I’m sorry, that’s too much math for a blog. But the answer is you’re way, way off getting to hear about any significant fraction of the vacancies through networking. Not even close.
Beyond – way beyond – networking
So why does networking work?
- You get seduced. They want you! We all want to be loved.
- They think you are safe. They are pretty sure you are not a weirdo; nobody recommends the seriously strange, at least I don’t think so.
- It doesn’t really work. It doesn’t work the way you want. You may get a job, but in the majority of cases not the right job for your special talents.
Use networking? Big mistake, HUGE mistake.
The much better method is to get matched with the right job, the job where your special talents and traits match that job’s performance predictors. This is scientific, not chaotic and it reaches all jobs, not the tiny fraction inside the purview of the friends of the friends of your friends…
If you use networking, at least use it with care. Use it with the likelihood that it will land you in yet another job that doesn’t fit.