Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Lately I’ve been coaching a lot of people who are in job search mode- leaders in companies and individual contributors who do solid work. They are telling me it’s tough out there- companies ghosting them in the middle of the interview process, reappearing after weeks to say sorry things fell off the radar but they have no news, and generally appearing disorganized and unprofessional. I always ask what they’re doing to get into process with these companies, and time and again the answer is mostly the same- applying for jobs online, and getting very few responses and a lot of rejections.
I see this a lot, and let me just say- rejections are only rejections when a human makes contact to say they’re not the right fit. An auto-response from applicant tracking software is not a rejection- it just means it’s time to try another route.
The Other Route: Making Connections
Once upon a time, I loved going to events. Talking to people I didn’t know, putting myself out there- I look back now and am in awe of that lack of fear, that openness to talk with people, and the space I had in my life to embrace the number of events I attended. I feel differently about how to draw my energy today, and these big events with lots of people just aren’t my jam anymore. According to my Myers Briggs Type Indicator, I’m still showing a preference on the extraversion side of the continuum, but I more and more appreciate quiet time, where I can get away from the noise and recharge. When I left my full-time role and built my coaching business, at first I felt isolated, so I set a goal to have coffee with at least one person per week, so I could continue to build my network and keep up with hiring trends. This helped immensely, both with my continuous learning and also in building and strengthening connections with people.
In my work, I see a lot of people who, like me, are mentally drained or recoil at the term “Networking”. Context is everything, so allow me to clarify- when we think of networking, we usually think of those big events where there are people we don’t know, who we may or may not authentically connect with. Let’s substitute in the term “relationship building” for networking, and rebrand it as the art of connecting with people and planting seeds to learn new things, make connections, and grow personally and professionally.
Most of us feel we should be better at networking. We envision a room full of people we don’t know, and being forced to talk to people we don’t know sounds draining, useless, scary- insert your adjective of choice here. (BTW, anytime we say “should”, it’s often a signal that it’s not what we want to do but rather what we feel is expected of us. Does that make it the right thing to do?) Back to the rebrand- on the other end of making connections, there’s relationship building- this is where some real magic can happen. Anyone can practice this. This is when people bring their authentic selves to a conversation, open up, share, and are vulnerable together. Some real Brené Brown goodness. (And, she’s got a Netflix special coming out! Be still my heart!) This is where a couple of or a handful of humans come together for a more intimate conversation, share information, actively listen, and hold space for each other. This is where we help each other out and mentor each other: friendtors!
Introverts or extroverts, it matters not- as humans, we need connection. Think back- when was the last time you had a new connection in real life and built a relationship with someone outside of your day to day at work? I hope it was lately, because it can be a conduit to so many great opportunities, both personally and professional, to hear each other, share information, and grow.
Job Search & Connections = Referrals
If you haven’t had that connection with someone lately, and you’re looking to change jobs, it’s a double whammy. People who invest time in building relationships personally and professionally have an increased chance of getting connected to opportunities through their personal and professional networks. We know that around 80% of jobs aren’t even posted on job boards. How will you find out about these opportunities if they aren’t posted? People with more connections are creating opportunities for themselves, which can lead to interviews. You’re more likely to get an interview with a referral from someone you know- in fact, 40% of hires come from referrals.
In the interview scenario, conversations with recruiters or hiring managers put us in the spotlight as we answer their questions, try hard to impress them, and wait for the next steps- information, acceptance, or the dreaded Rejection.
Ooof. Rejection. It hurts- a little part of the heart breaks with each one for most of us. We take it personally. We wonder what we did wrong, where we went wrong, what we said that was wrong. And the way recruiting has been functioning for the last several years, we usually don’t receive feedback on why we are rejected. We may continue to wonder, and sometimes Imposter Syndrome sets in. We may feel like we’re Not Enough, Not Good Enough, Not Smart Enough, Not Worthy. We may shrink from connecting with people and being social. We might make ourselves small.
In this smallness, we miss opportunities to connect. We miss the ability to demonstrate our curiosity, to share what we are good at, to share what our gifts are. This is actually the right time to lean on our relationships and get support from our tribe- they want to see us succeed and may have a new strategy to suggest to get closer to that new job.
On the other hand, interviews are an opportunity to connect, be our authentic selves, and make an impression. Maybe the job we interviewed for isn’t right for us, or the company promoted someone internally. Remember that 80% of jobs aren’t posted- maybe we’ll be offered one of those instead. This happens more often than you’d think. In fact, it’s happened to me a few different times.
Deepak Chopra & Our Gifts
People: we all have gifts. We are good at things. We might even have built up expertise that’s valuable to others- you likely have done this! Part of my work is helping people identify their talents and gifts, their areas of expertise, their strengths. I know everyone has these. Do you know what yours talents and gifts are? Recently I listened to Deepak Chopra on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations and was touched by what he had to say about discovering our gifts- time flies when we are using them. I especially enjoyed this article, “Self-Worth- 5 Ways to Identify Your Unique Gifts”.
If you have been building relationships and making personal connections, as great leaders are likely doing, go to your tribe and ask them what your gifts or talents are. Then listen to what they say, absorb the information, and recharge yourself. Because, if you make yourself small, if you don’t build relationships with people, your gifts may go unused. How will your potential new employer even find you and your talent if you aren’t talking to people and putting yourself out there? Try this when you reach out for connection: "I'm looking at ways to get better and wondering if you had any recommendations,” or "Wow, the flow of our last project was great, what do you think made us work well together?"
Moral of the Career Development Story
Connecting with people is important, not just because it’s human nature, but because it can open us up to opportunities, provide the warmth and community that we are craving, and give us a new perspective on forging forward if we’ve been feeling stuck. Introvert, extravert- it doesn’t matter where we get our energy from or how shy we feel. There are ways to connect in a medium that feels right to each of us. A coach can help you identify how to most effectively tell our career story and identify our strengths and talents when building these connections and executing on a job search.
If you identify as a woman and you're looking to kick your career up a notch and grow as a communicator, manager, or thought leader, join me for a Career Lab to build your communication and leadership skills.
For more career development information, follow me on Twitter @aboutworkstuff.