It seems to me that one of the fundamental problems with our economy is the illiquidity and inefficiency around matching people to jobs.  This topic is especially fresh after spending this past weekend at my five-year college reunion.  Many of my classmates who were present (and perhaps an even larger number who did not attend) have experienced trouble finding a job at some point since graduation.

Surveying the landscape, it seems that the predominant advice to job seekers can be summed up in three simple words: “Network, network, network.”  From career advice pamphlets to “experts” on the morning news – all I hear is that the secret to getting a job is networking.

As subversive as it may sound – I actually disagree.

It’s true that networking is an integral part of finding a job, but it is far from the full solution.  The other part to it, which is far more important, is simply being an honest, reputable, intelligent person.

Networking will do you no good if you don’t convince everyone you meet that you are capable of being an excellent colleague, subordinate, or boss.  If anything, networking will hurt your chances of finding a job if you do not show everyone that you are an honest, reputable, intelligent person. The more people who find out you’re no good, the more people who will know not to hire you!

When it comes to finding a job, networking is simply a medium of communication.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely the best medium of communication (far better than posting your resume online or looking at job boards), but it’s still just a medium. The message is: “I’m awesome and you should hire me.”  If you have no message – the medium will not stand on it’s own.

For more thoughts on this topic – see my post on how to get your first job (one of my all-time favorite posts).

Network, Network, Network
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  • Well – I both agree and disagree.

    First, it’s certainly true that not being able to contribute value and trying to get a job anyway possible (with networking being one way) is not the best approach.

    However, the difference between networking and, say, applying directly for a position is that the person handing the applicant off is essentially vouching for that person. It’s an implicit statement about the quality of the applicant – meta information about the candidate, if you will.

    Additionally, people frequently prefer having a traceable connection – it provides an illusion of accountability, or of the value of trust.

    Now, people who pass on the resume/etc of everyone with a sob story is going to lose credibility. They do not have discriminating judgement.

    However, for most other people networking works because the entire system functions as a filtration device. Bad candidates are not passed on as much.

    The is the further possibility that candidates are accurately matched to companies. Good candidates are directed to good companies where they can make a difference; sub-par candidates are directed to companies who wouldn’t be able to attract an excellent candidate, nor hold them for long.

    I’m obviously not sure of the latter, but given how prevalent networking is as advice, and how successful it seems to be for all sorts of people, I think there’s some merit to the idea that networking works as a matching function: matching applicants to suitable positions.

    It’s not perfectly efficient, of course, and the network you “inherit” (parents, college, etc) can give you a significant advantage – e.g. if there are no edges connecting nodes you’re connected with, you can never receive the same opportunities.

  • Simon Dexter

    Andrew,

    I actually tend to agree with you. Networking is an important part of job search, but it should not and does not resolve lack of qualifications or basic intelligence. Actually, practices originally employed in hiring computer scientists – like puzzle questions and brainteasers – have become very common and are routinely used in companies like Microsoft and Google to filter out intellectually incapable people. William Poundstone wrote two reputable books exploring this subject and – having read them – I think networking can only help one to get one step further – through resume-filtering sentinel. After that – it’s about how good they are at what they do.

    Let me know your thoughts…

    Simon Dexter