Networking is back in vogue and LinkedIn leads the way.
A generation ago, classified ads were the way to find jobs. Then it was online advertising boards. Today, the professional network LinkedIn is widely used by jobseekers and employers alike. Indeed, many vacancies never even make it to market, filled instead through professional network referrals and online “head hunting”.
Given the ever-shifting sands of the employment landscape, what’s the best way for today’s job seeker to land a new job?
“The power of the network is so important,” says Peter Antonius CPA, Managing Director at Resources Global Professionals, located in Melbourne, Australia.
Antonius, who has several years’ experience in the resourcing industry, says that while the advent of technology has changed the way people look for work, there are other factors to consider.
“The market dynamic has changed. Due to the current economic climate, where people are finding it harder to find opportunities, job seekers are realising that a professional network is critical to both opportunity and success.”
The job-seeker’s job
So how does one develop a professional network? Simply adding as many people as you can on LinkedIn is not the answer.
“We have to remember, LinkedIn is not Facebook,” says Antonius. “You have to, in a professional and courteous way, build a professional network of people [with whom] you have some commonality and a good rapport – [people] who may be of mutual benefit at some point.”
Whether that is through LinkedIn or through part of a professional organisation is up to you, Antonius says. “Join communities and groups on LinkedIn that are in your field. Keep an eye out for networking events that might be good to attend. Use these as a way to build intel – not just from a technical perspective, but also about what organisations are doing in that space.”
“One of the downsides, particularly with accountants – and I was one for much of my career – is that we are typically very siloed. We’re not great salespeople or networkers, generally speaking.”
His advice to job seekers is to take a two-pronged approach. “One approach is a bit more direct, where you are going [straight] to the organisation or leveraging off that organisation to attend events. And then it’s through your network – use them to help you get information and contacts in that organisation or connect with people they may know who could help.”
“In this market, in particular, you have to take matters into your own hands. You can’t rely on the recruiters and you can’t rely on SEEK, because there is just not enough opportunity out there. You have to be more proactive than ever.”
The employer’s job
Justin Naylor CPA is the Finance and Operations Manager at METIER3, an architecture firm based in Melbourne. When hiring, Naylor emphasises getting the right person for the job at the least cost.
“It really doesn't matter how you get there as long as you can achieve that aim. So whether you can achieve it through LinkedIn or SEEK [or] professional association networks, it doesn't really matter. Time is a big cost.”
Naylor suggests job seekers use LinkedIn to research prospective employers, but in conjunction with traditional websites.
“The advantage with LinkedIn is that you may be able to find out who the company might be linked to in your network, and that informal referral goes a long way in terms of recruitment. A candidate can go from possibly number 90 in the pile to potentially number one.”
But there’s a caveat: “Employers want to find ‘the best person’. They don't want to find ‘the best person they can get without advertising’,” cautions Naylor. “It’s important to remember that employment is a two-way street. Job seekers need to think about what they are going to contribute to the organisation, not just what they are going to get out of it.”
“[They] need to look at innovative ways to get noticed”, Naylor adds. “It’s not enough to just send off your CV and think ‘job done’. That's just the beginning.”
5 tips for job seekers
Do your research. Develop a list of organisations that you would like to work for and learn as much as you can about them.
Network. Join committees, discussion groups, go to events, interact with your peers.
Revisit what motivates you. Use this as your reality check every year or six months. Ask yourself: Are you going towards your goals or moving away from them?
Update your LinkedIn profile. Consider who you want to link to and how you want to link to them in a professional way.
Volunteer. If you don't have practical experience in the professional industry you’re trying to break into, get some volunteer experience.
Do your skills measure up? Assess yourself with CPA Australia's Career Guidance System.