Need a Job?? Who do YOU KNOW??

– L. Arthalia Cravin

I grew up hearing “It’s not what you know but WHO you know” as the key to getting a job. The same goes for getting a promotion on the job. That’s how the term “brown nosing” came to be—folks who “kiss up” to get ahead. Turns out this is precisely how the job market “game” still works.

A recent study shows that the best way to get a job is through a recommendation from someone who has enough clout to “get you in the door.” The study says that minorities, especially African Americans, are losing out looking for work in this still depressed economy because of lack of contacts with folks with clout. I’m not surprised by this. In fact my first reaction to the study was “So, what else is new?” What else is new is that the Internet, social media, is now playing an increasingly important role in hooking up folks with other folks who can get them jobs. Ever heard of “LinkIn?” This is a variation of “who you know” that many folks use to connect with other folks who can make a difference for them either getting a job, making a job change, or moving up in their current job.

The study gave an example of African Americans who had sent scores of resumes to companies actively looking for employees. None of these “out of the blue” resumes garnered any work. Instead the jobs went to folks who already knew folks who could give them recommendations or referrals—even folks who were less qualified than many African Americans who submitted their resumes to the same employer. The study characterized this as yet another obstacle for black employees who still face some form of discrimination in the job market. The proof is that African American unemployment is still double digit—and probably a lot higher, because unemployment statistics only includes individuals who are actively looking for work. Too many African Americans have simply given up looking.

So, how is a person supposed to deal with the “new” work place game changer of “Who you know?” Well, it’s too trite to say “get to know” who has clout. But this is the “new” workplace reality. Years ago folks relied on “letters of recommendations” from people who could put in a good word. Nowadays, folks who are in positions to hire already have connections to prospective employees. These connections range from church membership to golf club memberships. The same goes for fraternities and sororities. That’s why over the years people have referred to “golf course” deals to explain how folks who know each other from non-workplace social settings make deals away from the office or bring others into high paying jobs. Folks who don’t have access to these type social networks are simply left out in the cold. Ask any lawyer looking for a partnership with another law firm—the prospective firm wants to see a “book of business.” The “book of business” is the list of well paying clients that the prospective lawyer brings with him or her. This is the “who you know” list of connections that translates into dollars for a law firm.

The “new” world of getting a job is more than about skills and powerful resumes. The new world of getting a job is all about “who you know” who can put in a good word for you. Maybe this really isn’t new at all. For as long as I can remember folks looking for work asked folks who already had a job if there were opening where they worked. And, down through the years, folks have “put in a good word” or vouched for the employability of other folks to help them get in the door. The difference now is that word of mouth or person to person contact has been replaced with the Internet or some other form of cyber-world social media where folks gather and get to know one another. So, personal networking is still key to getting a foot in the employment door. Look at who’s getting the top jobs in Obama’s cabinet. This is “Exhibit A” for “who you know” as a way of getting top level jobs. Even if you have no plans for a “Washington on the hill” job, the same strategy applies—start networking. Expand your social circles. Lean in to activities, clubs, and volunteer organizations, as a way to promote yourself and make vital contacts with folks who can still “put in a good word.” In fact if you are seeking a job, think about who is already in your social circle who can “put in a good word” regarding a job. If you can’t think of anyone then you have work to do to make yourself relevant. Not to do so is to stand on the sideline and go nowhere fast.

Copyright 2013 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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