You’ve heard this advice before: If you wait until a job opening is posted, it’s too late!
How frustrating! You’re following the rules, and I’m saying that there’s no possible way to win. What – you’re supposed to break the rules and sprinkle magic dust in order to find a job?
Yes and no.
Here’s a normal way that jobs are filled in a medium-to-large size company:
- A manager notices that a job needs to be created, or somebody needs to be replaced.
- The manager jumps through hoops to try to allocate funding to hire somebody.
- Some kind of job description finally gets written down. It may reflect the actual work to be performed, or might be much more generic.
- The job description is reviewed by others in the group and other managers. They refine it, look for how it interacts with other job roles, and sometimes even totally change it.
- An internal “job search” begins, because it’s usually easier and cheaper to get someone who already knows something about the environment and the tasks.
- If this doesn’t succeed, the second job search begins, exploring peoples’ personal and professional networks. “Who do you know who might be good for this job?” gets propagated from one person to the next.
- If that doesn’t succeed, the third job search begins, looking for qualified people from the outside. At this stage, it’s not uncommon for a single job post to yield 500 applicants, the vast majority of which aren’t well qualified.
If you were the manager going through these steps, would you want to get to the last one? For most jobs, no! Imagine a pile of 500 résumés showing up on your desk in a couple of days – how could you possibly deal with that?
Unless the manager really wants to get a new outside person into the job, he really wants those first two job searches to succeed. Sure, there’s some environments (notably government jobs) where the rules require evaluation of both internal and external candidates. But even there, you’ll see hiring managers trying to short-circuit the process whenever they can.
If you’re inside the company, you want to find out about that job when the internal job search begins – or before. This will come down to how many people know what a great job you can do, and think you might be interested in the job, and would like to work with you.
It’s not who you know, but who knows YOU. That’s the reason to let people know what you can do, what you’d like to do, and what a great person you are to work with.
If you’re outside the company, then you certainly would like to get connected with the second job search. Again, people inside that company need to know about you, what you could do for them, and that they’d like to work with you. This is where blogs, discussion forums and associations can be highly valuable – they’re all ways for people to learn more about you in the context of being able to do great work.
I’d like to point out that there’s still a bunch of steps before even the first job search begins. In fact, it’s possible to influence the process that early in the game, if you’re connected with people who are involved in hiring decisions. If you’d like to have a job in that other group over there, start developing good relationships with the managers in that team. If you have some of those relationships already, start talking with them about the hiring plans they have for their teams. And if you see a need to hire somebody, and you might like to have that job, go talk with them about how creating a job might give them so much value.
Yes, you may have to learn how to “speak managerese.” That’s a good thing, if you’re going to have any kind of influence at all. It’s worth the effort, and may well lead to a promotion in your future.
by Carl Dierschow