There seems to be a misconception about the power of networking and how far it can take you.
With few exceptions, a network connection DOES NOT mean a guaranteed job offer. It’s not a magic wand that can be waved and result in you starting your new job on Monday.
Understanding this is important for two reasons:
- If you think all that matters is who you know, then you will not spend the time to beef up your educational achievements, hands-on skills, and/or peripheral skills such as writing or public speaking. Instead, you will only focus on meeting the “right” people and getting on their good side.
- Second, you will think it’s “in the bag” once that connection passes your name along and won’t put as much effort into acing the interview side of things and really showing them how you are the best candidate for the role.
Let’s break this down:
In a vacuum, the better engineer will likely land the job. How each employer decides who is “better” will be a combination of many factors that we are not dealing with specifically in this post. Under these conditions, it is mostly a meritocracy. However, you have to realize it is only a meritocracy at the point that you are getting in front of the right person and putting forth your case to be the best candidate.
This is where networking comes into play.
Do you think . . . ?
. . . the employer knows where to find you? Perhaps if you go to a school where they recruit, but even this is not a solid option on which to depend.
. . . the employer will be proactive and dig into your resume to really see how you’re a good fit for the role if that is not obvious from the details? Unlikely. They give your resume a quick look and quickly separate everyone into the maybe pile or the no pile.
. . . the employer cares about the random references you provide or the fact that someone they know put in a good word for you?
So while networking still DOES NOT GUARANTEE A JOB, it does give you a better chance of getting to the interview stage so that you can at least state your case to the employer.
Aside from simply getting in front of the right people and getting that chance, networking can also help you make it to the other side even though you (seemingly) fail to meet the job requirements.
Let’s be frank, we all know that the requirements listed for a job are often a wish list of items they’re hoping for in a candidate. Seeing this list, some viable candidates may be scared away and not even bother to apply. This is understandable as many applicants complain to me that the automated system weeds them out before they even have a chance. Networking can help you bypass the automated systems and have someone give your resume/candidacy some thought without the fear of automatic rejections because of minor “deficiencies” in the requirements because they know which ones are really required and which ones are just cherries on top.
I’m a huge proponent of using networking to get that opportunity and feel it is far superior to online applications. However, it is important to understand its limitations and be realistic in how it can and can not help you in your journey.
Need some additional guidance & materials to help you network?
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- Guidebook for Developing Your Engineering Network. Detailed instructions to supercharge your connections! The perfect guide for your job/internship search.
- 10 Networking Tips for Introverted Engineers. Don’t let your introversion hold you back! Use these tips to start networking without the anxiety.
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