Friday, February 1, 2013

Let’s Play Six-Degrees-of-Getting-a-Job

By G Peters

Did you ever play that game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? You know the one based loosely on the notion of six degrees of separation that says any two people in the world are, on average, about six acquaintances apart.

Like I know a woman from the gym who was walking in New York and talking rudely about old Kevin, when she stopped at a stoplight and who turned around? Kyra Sedgwick — Mrs. Kevin Bacon. Bam, three-degrees of Kevin Bacon separation.

The Kevin Bacon part came about (thanks to our friends at Wikipedia) after a 1994 interview in which he told Premiere magazine that he had worked with everyone in Hollywood. First there was a news thread, and then some college students made it into a game (I’m sure there was drinking involved).

The reason I bring up the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is because of a post on the New York Times website titled, “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed.” Those NYT headline writers think they’re so witty.

The story suggests that in this ultra-tough hiring climate, we’re back to the great American “know-who” network wherein it’s who you know that gets you the interview.

The article suggests that hiring managers are skipping job-search sites like in favor of their own network of employee suggestions. The NYT said that at Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, “Employee recommendations now account for 45 percent of nonentry-level placements at the firm, up from 28 percent in 2010. The company’s goal is 50 percent.”

This should come as little if any shock to anyone looking for a job. In my search I’ve tried to game the system by putting keywords in my cover letter and resume in the hope that the resume-reviewing software would somehow spit out my application from the reams of out-of-work applicants.

And I’ve taken the straight-forward approach and written from the heart, with about the same success. Slim and none. This is where the know-who network comes in.

In “Mending Wall,“ American poet Robert Frost tells us “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Borrowing from Frost, I’d say good social media makes good neighbors — or good friends, or acquaintances, or simply allows you to reconnect with that guy you sat behind in third-hour biology back in the day. More specifically, LinkedIn makes for good neighbors.

LinkedIn not chain link: My best luck in landing interviews is to play the LinkedIn network for all it’s worth. I’d say more than 50 percent of the interviews I’ve gone on are the result of reaching out to someone I know on LinkedIn.

The key is to build up your network. If you see a listing for XYZ company, the best thing you can do is plug it into the search function of LinkedIn to see: 1) who you might know there; 2) who might be a secondary or tertiary connection to somebody there; 3) former employees.

Be A Good Neighbor: Good fences make good neighbors and that means don’t over-assume. LinkedIn tends to overextend a little on its connections, so be sure to ask your buddy if they really know the contact, or if it’s a LinkedIn anomaly.

Be polite about asking for an introduction or to have someone reach out on your behalf. This is a favor, and your friend is risking their reputation.

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