Before you can interview for a job you have to get your foot in the door. Turning a piece of paper (your resume) into a chance to compete for the opportunity (the interview) is often the hardest part of a job search and almost impossible to do without help. Where do you get this assistance? Let’s fast-forward and take a look.
Pretend your search has ended and you are about to accept an offer--congratulations! Now look in your rear view mirror at your relationship and identify that one individual who deserves most of the credit for helping you get your foot in the door. Who was that person? It was your Uncle Harry or Aunt Mary.
Uncle Harry? Aunt Mary? Who are these people? Before you can interview with and go to work for any organization, you must first find someone there who is willing to go to bat for you. He or she will help you open the door, help you keep it open, shepherd your resume, and coach you through the process. Meet Uncle Harry or Aunt Mary!
This person could be an actual relative or simply a pseudonym for someone else, known or unknown to you at the beginning of your search. Regardless, you have to source and connect with an Uncle Harry or Aunt Mary inside that company in order to have any chance of an interview. There are seven proven avenues to make that connection.
First Avenue – Inside Connections. Make a list of people you know who hold influential positions in companies that are of interest to you. The word influential is critical. If you are not careful, your resume will end up in the round file in the personnel office. Having the Vice President of Operations looking out for you is altogether different from your cousin Vinnie who handles security at the front gate. Assuming there are positions available for which you are qualified, your Uncle Harry will get you the interview. Depending on your relationship with him, in addition to making the right connections, he will give you insights on both the position and the interviewer. Remember, however, Uncle Harry is doing you a favor. Make sure you are well prepared for the interview. Your performance will reflect back on him.
Second Avenue – The Internet. Think of all the potential Aunt Marys who are floating around out there in cyberspace! The key to using the Internet as an interview generation tool is selectivity. Utilize resources that specifically target your military community or background. Employers who are predisposed to hire the military profile will utilize these sites and will be much more receptive to your posting or inquiry. Social and professional networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have also developed as legitimate job search and career development platforms, but you must exercise caution with respect to content and postings. Make sure the accessible information presents you to a potential employer in a positive way.
Third Avenue – Recruitment Advertising. Also known as the help wanted ads and classifieds, this is the most traditional and also least effective method of finding your Uncle Harry. Although tedious, it is easy. Many experts will tell you that by the time an opening shows up in the classifieds, it is probably filled or a viable candidate has already been identified. The company is running the ad for either public relations purposes or EEOC requirements. One good reason to use the classifieds is to support a very specific geographic job search. If you must live in Chicago, then pay attention to the classifieds in the Sunday Chicago Tribune. In addition to the specific ads, see which companies are buying the most column inches of recruitment advertising. Whether or not you are qualified for the positions listed, a lot of advertising indicates growth, and growth means opportunity, and there are probably opportunities available beyond the ones being advertised.
Fourth Avenue – Alumni Associations. Most trade schools, colleges and universities offer their alumni some sort of post-graduation career guidance and counseling. Some offer very sophisticated, web-based, and national career transition assistance. Other use much less formal or geographically specific programs. Regardless, contact your school or alumni association to see what programs are available. These programs are typically sponsored by either the office of alumni affairs or the alumni association. Consider joining the association and participating in alumni events in your city or the cities in which you would like to live. Look for links to social networking sites. Whether it’s through a formal transition assistance program or an informal chat over coffee, perhaps you could run into your Aunt Mary.
Fifth Avenue – Networking. The concept behind networking is simple--whom do you know and whom do they know? In theory, any two people can be connected by tracking the relationships between four or fewer other people. The same theory explains why networking can be such a powerful job-hunting tool. Given the power of the Internet and the advent of social and professional networking sites, the number of degrees necessary to make the connection is falling rapidly. Expand the network enough and you will find Uncle Harry. A tremendous amount of work is required to make networking effective. You must constantly ask people for help, make phone calls to people that do not know you, overcome the feeling that you are imposing, and find yourself bumping up against closed doors. To increase your odds of success, target communities that are likely to be receptive to your requests for assistance. For example, try alumni groups, classmates, shipmates, fraternities or sororities. Finding some commonality will enhance the chances of the network actually producing your Uncle Harry.
Sixth Avenue – Professional Societies. Professional societies offer an approach similar to that of alumni associations. Organizations such as The Military Officers Association, the Retired Enlisted Association, the Non-commissioned Officers Association, the Navy League, the Association of the U. S. Army, Veterans of Modern Warfare, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America can be valuable resources. Already a member? Give them a call or visit their website to see what type of services they offer. Not a member? Perhaps this is the excuse you need to become one. Remember, there is a strong likelihood that Aunt Mary is already a member in good standing!
Seventh Avenue – Placement Companies. Also known as employment agencies, headhunters, or search firms, these organizations can be a very powerful tool. A professional, experienced recruiter or counselor at a placement firm can be your Uncle Harry connection at a company where you do not already have one. Placement firms establish and maintain relationships with hundreds of companies. They are aware of available positions in their client companies and can strongly influence interview activity there. The client companies value these services and pay the fees. In most cases the job seeker should never be asked to pay the fee or sign a contract. No placement firm can satisfy the needs of every individual. They all specialize in one way or another. Many are geographically specific. Others focus on a particular industry segment or category of job. Still others focus on a specific population, such as enlisted technicians, junior military officers, retirees, aviators, or nuclear power.
So now what? Get started! Call Aunt Mary! Find Uncle Harry! Generate interviews! What are you waiting for?
© 2012; Tom Wolfe, author; all rights reserved; excerpts from Out of Uniform: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition; used with the permission of the author and publisher, www.potomacbooksinc.com.
Tom Wolfe is an author, columnist, career coach, veteran, and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. During his career he assisted thousands of service members in their searches for employment, placing more than 3000 in their new jobs. Prior to civilian life, he graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy and served as a surface warfare officer. He teaches transition courses, gives seminars on career and job change, writes about the career transition process, and continues to counsel current and former military personnel. His book, Out of Uniform: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition, was published by Potomac Books in 2011. Got a job question? Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.