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The Adventure of Networking

28 May 2019

by Simon Jedwab, Program Manager- Employment Centre

At the Jewish Care Employment Centre, we see job seekers experiencing uncertainty, a lack of confidence, and the daily boredom of unemployment. People apply for a job and even if they are lucky enough to hear back with a positive answer, it may take weeks, sometimes months, to get a result. This can be demoralising and anxiety provoking. Yet, we expect job seekers to look bright, enthusiastic and confident. We even go so far as to teach techniques to hide nervousness and implore them to smile.

The traditional pathway for job seeking is reading a job ad, sending a resume and cover letter, getting an interview and, finally, landing the job. However, the reality is that this route fills only about 20-35% of all vacancies. At those odds and considering the turnaround times, job seekers can sometimes feel that they are just applying to fill the empty job seeking time. This is particularly true if they experience a barrier to employment such as age, lack of experience, ethnicity, living with a disability or having gaps in their resume from long-term unemployment or even prison time.

Look at the people you know. How many are doing what they studied at school? How many came across the career they ended up in by chance? How many got their job through contacts and took on an opportunity when it arose?

Over 66% of people will change their occupations over the space of 25 years. And, those that do change are generally more satisfied with their careers.

Professor Jim Bright, careers expert and writer for The Age, has listed the main reasons that people change their occupations or career paths, including:

  • unintended exposure to work or an activity they found interesting, or to a type of work they did not enjoy,
  • major change of residence,
  • an injury or health problem, and
  • barrier to previous career plan (failed at university, had a position made redundant).

Bright talks about a ‘Chaos Theory of Careers’. Fully explain this theory would take its own article however in  brief, the theory describes how a job seeker needs to first understand their own limitations and, considering these limitations, take on job seeking with curiosity, creativity, innovation, adaptability, flexibility and an open mind. This attitudinal framework is called a number of different things, but I like the term ‘luck readiness’. Job seekers need to be ‘luck ready’ to take on opportunities when they present themselves. As many people can tell you, chance events have a huge effect on careers. Be ready to jump when that happens!

How does someone get these opportunities? That is where networking comes in. For many of us, our main hope of getting back to work, changing jobs or starting the career that we want is through networking.

For many, hearing the word ‘networking’ conjures up being dressed for a cocktail party, holding a drink and chatting away, making contacts and friends. This is actually not far off. Parties, functions and any social gathering are great places to network. These events are where real business is done.

Networking is straightforward but it’s not necessarily easy. In all walks of life everyone does it to get what they want. Next time you need something fixed or made and someone says, “I have the perfect person for you!” that’s networking! It is just finding the right person to help you get what you want.

Networking- How to get started

To start building a network, you need some idea about what you want to do. What career or job do you want?  A ‘ball park’ idea is enough to get started.

Next, find out who in your network of friends, family or acquaintances may be able to help or knows someone who can help. Use those contacts. People love to help. They don’t all love to give too much, so don’t expect to be handed a job, but advice giving is free and people will make time to give it.

At the Employment Centre, we often start someone on their way by finding them their first contact.  You only need one contact to start a network. Ask them for some advice and when the conversation finishes, ask them for two other people in their network that you could contact. Now, you are creating your own network! Two becomes four, four become eight and so on. Eventually, something will happen. At the least, you are becoming an expert in the industry of your choice and will seem well informed at the next meeting.

Some golden rules to networking:

  1. You need a good resume. It’s your calling card and can be left with every contact.
  2. Never burn your bridges career wise. If you leave a workplace, be humble and nice. Everyone there is in your network and can be used to gain a foothold somewhere else.
  3. Never actually ask for a job. Remember, people like to give advice but giving a job is a big deal.
  4. Keep track of your contacts; forever if you can. You never know when you will need them. Use a spreadsheet to map your journey through contacts. Social media sites like LinkedIn are a great tool to keep connected with your network.
  5. Do not hide the fact you are unemployed, even if you feel a bit shy about it. Unemployment happens to nearly everyone at some time. The more people hear you are looking, the more likely that an opportunity will come your way.

Networking involves technique and some finesse. It involves a planned and ongoing effort. You need to set goals and develop strategies to achieve them. You need to be decisive and take action. Be reflective; evaluate how well your plan is working and make changes as necessary. It is in no way easy and you are often waiting for busy people to call you back. This is particularly galling when you are not so busy.

At the Employment Centre, we help people develop skills in networking, interviewing and resume development. We can’t make job seeking easy, but we do provide support, advice and an individualised pathway.

For more information about Jewish Care’s Employment Centre, email [email protected] or call 8517 5999.

Simon Jedwab is the Program Manager of the Jewish Care Employment Centre.  He has successfully found work through networking a number of times and claims never to have found a job through a job ad.