Networking: The Way to Land the Job You Want

One of the reasons why I started a career consulting and education company, 5stepCareers is because I learned the path to career success – the hard way. When I was in college, I wanted to leverage on the status of my alma mater, Columbia University, to land a summer internship at a law firm. So I applied to 100 law firms. And guess what? I was rejected 100 times.

It's a path I've since gained from and where I learned the importance of networking. Thus, I want to share my experiences so you wouldn't fall into the same traps I did back then, like deliver pizzas all summer.

I've had 13 jobs in my life since 1993. How did I source for them? Via networking, career offices, job advertisements, and one cold pitch email. In chronological order:

  1. Pizza delivery – applied from a sign in a window (advertised)

  2. Warehouse – applied through Kelly temporary services (advertised)

  3. Columbia Law School Library – applied work study (advertised)

  4. Mercer (Chicago) consulting internship – through network

  5. Mercer (New York) consulting internship – through network

  6. A.T. Kearney consulting – career office

  7. Bear Stearns IBD MBA internship – career office

  8. Credit Suisse IBD – career office

  9. Credit Suisse IBD – through network transferred to Chicago Office

  10. Credit Suisse IBDthrough network transferred to Singapore Office

  11. Skywest CFO – cold email pitch through LinkedIN (advertised on LinkedIn)

  12. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Adjunct Professor – through network

  13. Duke-NUS Medical School Entrepreneur-in-Residence – through network

Here are some key insights distilled from my experiences applying for, working through, and learning from those jobs:

  1. Half were sourced from networking. – 6 via networking – 3 via career office – 3 via job advertisements – 1 via a cold pitch email on LinkedIn The 3 advertised positions were more entry-level ones that I did early in my career (pizza delivery, warehouse worker, and librarian's assistant) as an undergraduate student. Never again. So then I worked on building up my network of contacts. Networking was the best way not only to land jobs, but to land those that were interesting and fulfilling for me. The one time I wrote a 5-bullet point cold pitch email on LinkedIn to the Chairman of SkyWest Airlines, I got lucky.

  2. Most jobs are never advertised – they're in the heads of hiring managers. Think of a funnel with the widest part on the left and the narrowest part on the right. That's the hidden job funnel. The majority of jobs are unadvertised and only exist as a need in a hiring managers' head – the narrow end of the funnel. On the other hand, the fewest jobs are the ones that make it to a formal job posting and even less make it to a search firm or recruiter – the wide end of the funnel. Surprisingly, people don't realise that there's very little competition for the jobs without a formal job posting! The better job-search strategies would thus include knowing how to tap into that hidden job market, often through networking.

  3. Some postings are jobs that you may not ever get. For example, there was a job that I thought I would be a great fit for (Asia CFO/FD for Intuit) and I did extensive networking with 5–10 relatively senior people at the company, by using some of the 2HJS approaches. I was convinced I had a reasonable shot at the job. However, I later found out that the job went to someone who used to be colleagues with the new Asia CEO at another company. Very likely the CEO brought his old CFO with him. Networking in action. That was a job that was posted that I (or anyone else) was probably never going to get.

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