Who you know is far more important than the job search process. Networking "levels out the hierarchy" that connects employers to employees (Chernow, 2003). Networking is a means of communication whereby a CEO might be separated from the clerk. It is a complex process that involves establishing and then building upon relationships. In a society filled with look alike candidates, where hundreds of people present themselves to employers with identical skills, educational talents and abilities, networking and the creation of interpersonal relationships allows some employees to stand out from others. Busy hiring managers don't have time to sift through the thousands of applications they receive for a limited number of job opportunities. Because of this, establishing an "in" at any corporation, through networking and other relational avenues, is a sure fire mechanism for building success and landing a job under less than ideal economic circumstances.
To understand the importance of networking, one must first examine the employment game without it. Many scholarly publications, books and even managers will tell you that the key to success in the business world is having exceptional interpersonal skills, attitude, a personal mastery of time and having a great deal of perseverance (Brindle, 2000). Of all of these, having interpersonal skills is the most important. Unfortunately there are hundreds and thousands of people who have mastered these business techniques, yet failed in the employment game. Frustrated, these individuals have no where to turn.
This is where the reality sets in. In today's world, charm, interpersonal influence and time management are important, but inadequate if one doesn't have the ability to influence and manipulate there way through the "labyrinth of political workings" that make up societies complex organizations (Brindle, 2000). The key to success and promotion lies in the ability of any one person to build effective and complex working relationships. Relationships are the building blocks of success.
For networking to be successful however, people must understand that power lies in leveraging relationships that help others, not necessarily those that help only the individual attempting to gain personally and professionally (Marken, 2001). Building networks help people feel better. In a society where impersonal communication reins the most powerful, leveraging impersonal contacts with networking activities can have a powerful influence on business managers (Marken, 2001).
The biggest advantage networking has is helping you identify people that might assist you in achieving your goals (Noe, et. al, 2003). Those people in turn will help provide you with the resources you need to succeed. Networking can occur anywhere, at business conferences, seminars and even at sporting events (Noe, et. al, 2003). The reality of today's world is that a hiring manager is much more likely to hire someone via word of mouth, or someone that has already proven themselves over a perfect stranger. Far too many what ifs exist in today's society.
The job search process is important in and of itself. It allows job seekers to identify avenues for success and growth. Solid job search skills include having the ability to aggressively identify opportunities, craft a resume that speaks to a hiring manager, and having the ability to present oneself in a professional and attractive manner. The job interview is critical to the success of a potential relationship. Landing that first interview is a tremendous milestone in the job search process. Getting to the interview however, takes a great deal of strategizing and finesse. Networking can help a candidate, if nothing else at least overcome this hurdle and manage to meet with individuals making the hiring decisions in an organization.
Having great job search skills is not enough in and of itself, to land a job in a society where hiring managers nationally and internationally receive hundreds and even thousands of resumes for just one open position. A professional resume is often the only information a hiring manager has of a candidate, and that certainly isn't enough to make an impression in a sea of identically professional resumes. Often selecting the best candidate depends on a variety of factors. In a pool of fish where everyone has the same level of education, skills and ability, the candidate that is most likely to win out is the one who has successfully created a network of opportunity around them. If your resume turns up on the desk of a corporate hiring agent because someone referred you to that agent, you are much more likely to gain an edge over the competition.
Even if an individual doesn't come to know people within the organization personally prior to a job interview, that person might benefit if they have been participating in social venues related to their field. For example, let's say an individual is up for an executive job in Human Resources. They have in the course of their job search, joined several local, national and perhaps even international organizations related to this particular field of study. The chance that they will know someone within those member organizations that is connected to the hiring manager is fairly good. Even if they never meet someone personally, it is likely that the hiring manager is a member of one or several of those organizations, and having that affiliation automatically creates a comfort level and bond between interviewer and the incumbent.
Networking also provides job seekers with opportunities outside of the framework of the traditional job hunt. Many vacancies go unpublished. By networking, and individual is far more likely to learn of an opportunity from a relationship gained that through an advertisement in a newspaper. How often have you attended an event where someone mentioned an opening in their organization? You then have a link to a new job lead and someone who already works in the company, who might put in a good name for you. A large number of candidates never even embark on a traditional job search campaign, but rather rely on allegiances with networking business partners to apply for openings in organizations.
Job seekers live in a "buddy" time society, where relationship building is perhaps the single most critical success factor. Employers take risks when hiring unknown individuals. There is no guarantee that they are presenting their true selves in a job interview; everyone puts on their best face. Solid recruiting and interviewing techniques may help weed out potential stars from potential failures, but there are no guarantees (Noe, et. al, 2003). Recruiting measures may involve examining a potential candidate's background, years experience and education. None of these factors however, highlight an individual's ability to communicate efficiently and effectively, and build relationships. The true stars in any organization are those people that have the ability to uplift their peers, learn from them and contribute to the organization as a whole. A person who has practiced networking has already proven to his peer that he has the ability to succeed interpersonally, and learn from others.
Networking is also a give and take relationship; someone that participates in relational building must give as well as succeed. If a candidate has taken the time necessary to build this type of relationship, they are likely to do the same once they are hired within an organization. Networking is only successful when an individual is willing to talk with people inside of an outside of their immediate surroundings and organizational setting, with people who have expertise in particular areas that are the same as and different from their own. Committees, task forces and meetings are excellent avenues for self-promotion and learning.
Some have argued that there is a down side to networking; it may result in hiring a candidate that is less qualified for a position, someone who is hired simply for their ties to someone or several people in the organization. There are those that claim that this person will ultimately fail. However, in the vast majority of cases, someone who is hired because they know one or several people has already proven they have the ability to succeed. They are likely to be hired not just because they know people, but also because they have the requisite skills necessary to succeed. Networking is best managed in combination with strong job searching skills, to ensure the highest likelihood for success.
Debate: Career Succession Planning
The vast majority of employees aspire to one day climb the corporate ladder and succeed. Many employees rely on their employers to provide them with the appropriate career development opportunities to succeed, and cry out in anger when they are not presented with adequate promotional and directional tools. The reality is however, that it is not the employer's duty to provide employees with career development opportunities.
The responsibility for advancement lies solely on the shoulder of the employee. The employer is obligated in certain circumstances to provide a "career path" of sorts. This is evidenced in many civil service positions where a line of succession exists for most jobs, even those at the administrative level (Noe, et. al, 2003). Even administrative assistants have the ability to…