The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
The next piece of great advice given to job hunters is: “You have to use networking. Networking is how people find jobs.” And that is true. But for someone who hasn’t been trained in job-search networking, this advice is not helpful. He protests, “I’ve spoken to everyone I can think of, and it hasn’t helped! No one wants to do anything for me!” For this job hunter, networking is “notworking.”
Unless this job hunter read last week’s column, he is probably asking people if they know of any job openings. If he’s lucky, a nice person will say something like, “My brother-in-law works at Company X, and he knows the boss. Maybe he can help you.” So the job hunter calls, and gets a weary answer like, “Send me a résumé and I’ll see what I can do.” And it goes nowhere. Because this is the tenth call like this he’s gotten this week. And he really can’t advocate for someone he doesn’t know. If he gets the job hunter an interview and it’s a disaster, he’ll look bad. If the interview goes well, but then down the road things get sour, it will always be traced back to him. So asking someone who is in a company to advocate for you is really a bad idea, and that’s why even nice, helpful people don’t want to do it.
The other contact that people call “networking” is when someone says to a friend, “You sit next to Mr. Bigbucks in shul. Can’t you ask him to give my nephew a chance?” Well, yes, he can ask. And if the job is relatively low-level, where the stakes are small either way, it might work. But if the job pays a “support-a-Jewish-family” salary (around here, about the 96th percentile of wage earners), then we need to know a rule that I will repeat many times in these columns: Companies do not hire to do chesed. They hire people who can solve their problems and deliver outstanding value in the position. If this nephew is able to do that, then this contact in shul is a great idea. But it will only get him in the door for an interview. If he’s not prepared for the interview, or even worse, he’s not the right candidate for the job, the network connection won’t help.
Another frustration in “notworking” is that people think they have to talk to Mr. Bigbucks, and he is very hard to reach. So they agonize over finding some connection to this man, probably a similar “Mr. B” type, and remain paralyzed in the meantime. We will learn that good networking doesn’t require getting to “Mr. B.” More often it means learning about the company, probably by contacting someone who works there, and building on that contact so that you become known to people at many levels in the company, including the person who can hire you. Anyone who works at a company can be the starting point there, so the job hunter should constantly be looking for the connections he needs.
If you have spoken to all the right people, who are known for being kind and helpful, and it gets you nowhere, then you really feel lost. This adds another layer of frustration to the job hunt, and leaves people badly discouraged. But networking, if used correctly, is definitely the way to hunt for your job. With the right coaching, it can get you all the way to “hired.” v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.