Like most things in life, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” process for a successful job search. While it’s comforting to believe there is a guaranteed, linear set of steps (e.g., send a resume, get an interview, receive the offer), this traditional or “reactive” approach to finding a new job doesn’t always work out, especially for career changers.
One primary reason is that over 50% of available jobs are never posted publicly, which means that if you’re only applying online, you’re competing with 100% of the applicants for less than half of the available jobs. You don’t need to be a math whiz to realize those aren’t great odds.
In a “proactive” job hunt, you actively identify the companies that you’d like to work for based on your target, and then engage your network to get your foot in the door, which is a strategy that works more effectively for any job seeker. In fact, according to research, referrals are the number one source of hiring volume and quality for employers. With some surveys showing that fewer than 7% of total applicants are from the referral pool, these are MUCH better odds for the serious job seeker, and most definitely a career changer.
Although for decades research has supported the fact that networking is the gold standard for finding great opportunities, many job seekers are seduced by the “reactive” search process because applying online appears to have more structure and less ambiguity. There is a false sense of productivity sitting behind a computer emailing resume after resume to open job requisitions on the monster job boards (See “7 Reasons to Re-think an Online Job Search”).
So,if you prefer structure (and most people do!), why not create your own? Once you have a clear goal, consider networking as the FIRST step in the job search process and submitting your resume as the SECOND step. This will enable you to get past the inherent bias, robots (Applicant Tracking Systems), and competition.
Plus, in addition to reduced competition from other applicants as a referral candidate, a proactive job search tends to increase your exposure to “in demand” positions – the ones that are the most interesting, highest paid, and sought after. (Newsflash: really awesome roles are usually filled before the previous person’s chair is cold, so they’re rarely advertised).
Moreover, when you network into a job before it’s been advertised, your chances of negotiating a higher compensation package increases since there may be little to no competition (Note: jobs posted online get an average of 200 applicant responses. Even if half are not qualified, that is some stiff competition!).
Still feeling resistant? Remember that some companies (especially smaller ones like start-ups) rely heavily on employee referrals to fill positions, so a proactive search may be the only way to get your foot in the door in these cases. Also, many companies reward their employees for bringing in new talent (e.g., referral bonuses), so you may actually be helping your contact to earn a nice payout by asking him to pass your resume along.