Networking a New Job

by Paul T. Forde

Termination. The word itself has different meanings depending on the context. In the situation where it is used to describe the end of one's employment, there is but one interpretation; he or she will be unemployed and finding a new job will not be easy. With a larger percentage of corporations in America undergoing reorganization or "downsizing", a greater number of employees, including engineers and scientists will see themselves in this unfortunate position. Furthermore, once the initial shock of "termination" wears off, it is often replaced with a feeling of panic; how do I find a new job? Relax. There is a very effective method that can be used to conduct a successful job search. It is known as "networking". If used effectively, networking can be a rewarding experience that will often result in a better position in terms of job satisfaction and salary.

Where does one begin? First and foremost, it is important to understand what networking is all about. For many people in the technical community it involves an entirely new or different philosophy for conducting a job search. It means researching a company to determine if that firm would have interest in your background. It means contacting a knowledgeable person who may be aware of opportunities, and finally, it involves speaking to that person with the primary intention of obtaining advice. This is one of the key points pertaining to networking; you are contacting a perspective employer not for a job, but for advice. By writing that person, you are telling him or her that you value their opinion and you are requesting their advice in seeking companies that may have interest in your background.

In the last few years I have had the opportunity to speak with many engineers who have undertaken a job search (both employed and unemployed). In most cases, when asked how they planned to undertake their job search, the response I received often sounded something like this: "check the newspapers, respond to ads and contact recruiters". Six months later, when their job search was stalled and a feeling of hopelessness had set in, they realized that something was drastically wrong.

As an example, assume you see an advertisement in your local Sunday paper for a position that you consider to be applicable to your expertise and interests. You respond with a cover letter and attach a copy of your resume. Consider the following scenario at the company that placed the ad. The person responsible for opening the resumes may be a secretary or receptionist. Assume this person has been given guidelines and instructed to make three piles; yes, no, and maybe. The following profile describes the number of resumes received on a particular day:

Day 1 - 15 resumes
Day 2 - 25 resumes
Day 3 - 50 resumes
Day 4 - 35 resumes
Day 5 - 25 resumes

Over a five-day period, 150 resumes are received. Suppose your resume arrives on Day 3. What are the chances that your correspondence will end up in the "yes" or "maybe" pile? Consider another scenario. The person responsible for screening waits five days before beginning to review 150 resumes. Suppose your resume is somewhere near the bottom of the pile. How would you rate your chances under these circumstances?

As you utilize the networking process and compare it to the traditional methods, you realize several things. To begin with you are progressing in your job search every day. You are controlling where your resume is circulated, and you have a "hands-on" approach to contacting potential employers. Note how this compares to answering advertisements or using recruiters. Sooner or later you begin to speak with people who are interested in your qualifications, and will want to meet with you to discuss employment.

Networking can be a very rewarding experience and for those who have found new positions via this technique, no other method compares. It takes time to develop your letter writing skills, to feel comfortable telephoning the person you have written, and following up on the suggestions given. Networking is a full time job yet the rewards may very possibly offer more opportunities than you had at your previous position.

Paul T. Forde is an engineer with over 20 years industry experience.

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