Monday, February 22, 2010

Job Seekers – Help People Help You

Most jobs are not publicly advertised. To get to them, you need to network. I know, I sound like a broken record (for those of you what remember what a record is!), but the more I speak with job seekers, the more I realize that this is a difficult point to internalize, and even when it is fully understood, often it enters into our short term memory only.

For instance, take a look at the habits of those looking for work reported by UpMo: To summarize:

  • Sporadic communication: Job seekers only talk to - or email - an average of 8 people outside of their current organization on a monthly basis.

  • Failure to expand the circle: Job seekers are reluctant to ask for introductions, with fewer than 4-in-10 (38%) asking for an introduction in the past month.

  • Small networks: On average, job seekers have a network with of just 29 colleagues, defined as peers they have interacted with in the last 18-24 months.

  • Misplaced priorities: Jobs seekers say spend 68% of their time is spent looking at online job postings - and less than one-third of their time reaching out to others.

What we have here is clear evidence that most job seekers are doing very little networking – reaching out to people that can assist in efforts to identify opportunities that will not be available elsewhere. My experience tells me that networking significantly helps job seekers throughout the world, but I think that in Israel it is especially true. Since Israel is a small country, and it seems that “everyone knows everyone”, once you get to a small number of connected people, you have access to many people that can provide you with information and even specific employment possibilities. However, this will never happen if you don’t take the first step.

LinkedIn is one of the best resources out there to make connections. Joining groups for instance, either those targeted at people in Israel or the ones focused on your profession, is a quick and easy way to get access to thousands of new people that have something in common with you. When you have built a relationship with people you found on LinkedIn, you can make a LinkedIn connection to them, thereby increasing access to additional people (connections of your new connection). By the way, one comment about sending invitations to people on LinkedIn: I personally get many invitations from people that I don’t know (or at least don’t recognize) sent using the default LinkedIn invitation text; I immediately archive (permanently ignore) them. I guess that everyone has their own philosophy of who to connect with, but I find it unprofessional for someone to make such an approach without investing some thought and adding a personal touch.

One thing that job seekers tell me regularly is that when they do network, they often are disappointed in the results. This can be true whether the networking is being done with friends/acquaintances/industry professionals or with people within organizations. Remember, the objective is to get to people that work in industries/companies of interest to you, and when you do, enter into discussions to further your understanding and get to unpublished job opportunities. There are two categories of people/organizations to network with:

  • Your friends/family/acquaintances that are not necessarily in a profession/company of interest, but like/trust you and can serve as facilitators to those that are. Non-professional associations, including representatives from immigrant organizations, can be considered in this category.

  • People with knowledge of professions/companies/sectors of interest to you can serve as professional knowledge providers. Resources from professional organizations (such as accountants, finance, hi-tech) also meet this criterion.

In some cases, these networking conversations are relatively informal in nature. Once you explain the purpose of your query, the networking contact will often try to help. However, this person doesn’t always automatically know the best way to assist you. Clearly the person understands that you are looking for a job, so sometimes they jump straight to this issue, and tell you that they don’t know of any job openings, or they don’t know anyone else that might be a good new contact for you. In these cases, you need to do some nudging to move the conversation in a more productive direction. For the networking facilitators, sometimes you must ask directly for people that they know in the professions/companies/sectors of interest to you. Now it is much easier for them to help, as they know exactly what you want. For the networking professional knowledge providers, you need to be prepared with probing questions about your field of interest to elicit the information that you want.

Everyone searching for work has the same end point: to get a job they are content with. However, not everyone has the same means getting to this end. For new immigrants just starting their careers in Israel, building a better understanding of the industry here is critical, including whether the skills they bring from another country, combined with their Hebrew languages abilities, meet the requirements. Of course, everyone is interested in hearing where the industry has employment opportunities, including at the individual company level if possible. If you are prepared with specific questions for your networking encounters, you will have a much better chance to be satisfied with your efforts.


  1. Doesn't all this emphasis of networking above the traditional job postings undermine your day-job at Israemploy? After all, the Israemploy job-listings are there most lucrative asset, surely?

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