Submitting a job application has always been a bit of a faceless endeavour, but with the rise of increasingly sophisticated Internet-based application processes, the job search has become even more faceless. Added to this is the fact that Bachelor's degrees have almost become mandatory and that any applicant can produce a resume that is both visually appealing and tailor-made for the position. So how do you set yourself apart? Use and expand your network.
Networking is the simplest way to get yourself noticed in the crowded pool of applicants that make up every employer's recruitment database. There was a time when I viewed networking as a tedious exercise that took up my time and resources. This was probably because I did not fully understand the concept of networking. However, my view changed when a career advisor from Career Services properly explained networking to me.
He explained to me that your network consists of all the people you know. In turn, each of these individuals has their own network. Utilizing your network consists of two simple steps. The first step is "getting the word" out that you are looking for a job in a certain field. By doing this, someone in your network may have information about a position you may be interested in, either through their job or through someone in their network. The second step is "taking action" on this information. By following whatever leads you get from your network, you are on your way to finding out more information about the company or field you are interested in and possibly on your way to your dream job.
Now, if you can't get any leads for a position or company through your network, then the obvious thing to do is to expand your network. To do this effectively you want to meet people in your desired field. This can be done through volunteering, joining an organization or association related to the field, or through an informational interview. Of these three, I personally find that the most effective one is the informational interview. An informational interview involves you arranging an interview (either in person or over the phone) with a professional in your desired field. Most professionals are willing to answer questions about their career path or company. By conducting an informational interview, you have expanded your network directly in the field you are seeking. It is also possible that the person you meet has information about an available position within their organization they may refer you to apply for.
Recently, I put all this advice to work. Following graduation, I struggled to transition into the working world. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and my only work experience being five years of part-time in customer service, I had few career options in my field of choice during a recession. I decided that I needed more experiences related to the business field, but without a Business degree, this would still be difficult. So, I took my customer service experience and went to my best friend's sister, who has worked for TD Canada Trust for a few years. By doing this, I took the first step of networking: "getting the word out." We talked about the details of working for a bank and she made some suggestions, one of which was that I sit down with her boss. I then followed the second step of networking: "taking action." I sat down with her boss one afternoon and had about a 45-minute informational interview with him. He provided me with more information about the company and field, but most importantly I had face-to-face time with someone in management and an opportunity to make an impression on a potential employer.
By utilizing my network, I was able to gain useful information about a job I was interested in and was able to get noticed within the company. In the end, I was hired as an entry-level customer service representative at TD Canada Trust. Who knew two simple networking steps could land me a job that I may not otherwise have a chance at through the traditional job application process?