As most of us know, there is an almost limitless number of ways we can look for a new or better job. The trick, of course, is to find those that deliver the best results. If we focus our time and efforts there, we are likely to improve the odds of our finding exactly what we want and doing so in this lifetime.
Traditionally, networking has been cited as the most effective job search strategy. Many of the best openings are never advertised -- they are part of what's called the "Hidden Job Market" -- and the only way to tap into this secret cache of opportunity is by connecting with friends and colleagues who can point you in the right direction. If you know the right person or can network to them, you will find the dream job you're looking for and, no less important, avoid most of your competition in the job market because they won't even know it's available.
And then, of course, there's the Internet. More than a little has been said about its helpfulness as a job search resource, especially the employment areas that can now be found on many organizations' Websites. Indeed, the Society for Human Resource Management has just launched a special designation for these areas -- the dot.jobs (.jobs) address -- to help job seekers connect with employment opportunities posted at employer sites. In the not too distant future, if you want to work for some great employer, all you'll have to do is surf over to SomeGreatEmployer.jobs, and you'll have instant access to its job openings.
But are those two strategies the best ways to get employed -- to find your dream job and be offered it by the employer? That, it seems to me, is the question we really want to answer. Networking, for example, is not everyone's cup of tea, and if you do it poorly (or not at all), it's unlikely to connect you with the job you want. And locating jobs on an employer's Website is a far cry from actually getting an offer. Indeed, many applicants describe the experience as akin to sending their resume into a virtual black hole. They apply, and nothing happens.
So, what's the best source of employment? To get at the answer to that question, we recently polled the visitors to our Website to determine where they found their last job. This Source of Employment Survey is the first of what we expect to be an annual look at what methods get results in the job market.
This year, we had over 1,500 participants in our survey. Here's what they told us.
- More than one-third (34%) of the respondents said they found their last job online, at a job board. That was more than three times greater than the second place source, which was receiving a call from a headhunter. It was cited by 10% of the respondents.
- Networking came in a close third at 9.3%. There are many kinds of networking, however, so which was most effective? According to our respondents, networking at a business event was twice as effective as networking at a social event ... if you're looking for a job.
- Fourth on the list was a referral by an employee of the company at 8.7%. While this could be considered a form of networking, we set it apart in order to determine its unique usefulness.
- And in a surprise finish -- given all of the commentary about how Americans don't read them very much any more -- newspapers rounded out the top five most effective sources of employment with the votes of 8% of the respondents.
- An ad posted on a company's Website, which was identified by just 2.6% of those in the survey, and
- An ad in the publication of their professional association, which was reported by an almost invisible 0.6% of the respondents.
Equally as important, people seem to be learning from their experience. When asked where they expect to find their next job, they overwhelmingly gave the nod to the sources that were most effective in finding their last job. According to our respondents, they'll use:
- Ads posted on an Internet job board (69.7%), and
- Networking at home or work (7.8%); just 1.9% said they would rely on networking at social events.
What do these findings suggest for what you should do to find employment in your dream job?
Number 1. Apply for openings posted on job boards, but invest your time wisely. There are lots of alternatives, so it's important to select the sites that will serve you best. I recommend that you use two general purpose sites (e.g., Monster.com, Yahoo! HotJobs, CareerBuilder.com, Best Jobs USA, NationJob Network) and three specialty sites (one that focuses on your career field, one that focuses on your industry, and one that focuses on the location where you want to live and work).
Number 2. Network on the Net. Face-to-face interactions are important, but they're time consuming and not something everybody enjoys. So supplement whatever traditional networking you do with online networking. Participate in the discussion boards at the sites of your professional association or college alumni organization. That will increase the number of people who know you and thus your reach into the job market ... and you can do it in the privacy of your home while wearing your fuzzy slippers.
Number 3. Don't ignore newspapers. In fact, make them an integral part of your job search strategy. And remember, most newspapers have both a print edition and an online job board, so spend some time with both to ensure that you don't overlook an opportunity.
Number 4. Don't ignore corporate Websites, but don't rely on them either. They are useful sources of information about the culture of an employer and about what the experience of employment will be like ... or what I call the 5W's -- what will you get to do, what will you get to learn, what will you get to accomplish, who will you get to work with and what will you earn.
Conventional wisdom isn't wrong. You need to use a range of tools to find and be offered your dream job, particularly in today's competitive job market. Our Source of Employment Survey will help you identify those that have been most helpful to others ... and, we hope, will be most helpful to you, as well.
Peter Weddle is a veteran as well as the author or editor of over two dozen employment-related books, including the recently released The Career Activist Republicand Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System, one of the most innovative career success books in print. Both are available at Amazon.com.