Here’s a quick summary of the things I tried, what worked and what didn’t over the past year.
Pipelining – a.k.a the best approach
Out of everything I tried last year this was by far the most effective. The goal is to take the contacts of your friends and family – people who can hook you up with a job – and turn them into your own. Most people know how difficult it is to get an interview without a personal contact. And even when you have one, it’s still hard because you aren’t actively involved in the connection – i.e. your cousin might tell his boss about you, but you’ll never meet this boss to help influence his decision. That’s why bridging this gap and establishing a connection with someone on the inside is so important. It allows you to directly impact the hiring process.
Not surprisingly you’ll start by canvassing all your personal contacts for connections to companies you want to work for. Then you’ll ask whether it’s ok to contact these people directly. It’s very important to let everyone know that you’re only trying to learn. You just want to know a little bit about what’s out there for a newly designated CA. You’re not there to ask for a job.
Really, this whole process is about building rapport. Have a list of questions prepared. Meet them for coffee and pick up the bill. This shouldn’t take longer than two hours. Keep in mind that everyone loves giving advice. And people love talking about themselves too. You won’t have a tough time trying to convince someone to have a coffee with you, where the whole point of the meeting is learn about them.
Do not ask this person for a job at the end of the meeting. Tell them you’re looking for possible job opportunities, but you’re trying to figure out what’s available first before you start applying places. You should ask whether it’s ok to contact them in the future though, once you’ve sorted things out.
The purpose of this whole process is to transfer “insider contacts” from your friends and family to you. You’ve developed rapport. Now you can contact them directly in the future. You’ll have a reason. “Hi, we had coffee a few months back and I think xyz is a company I could really see myself working for” blah blah blah. The face-to-face you had earlier not only gives you a contact, it also makes it harder for the person to turn you down. It’s simple psychology. It’s easier to throw out a resume than it is to dismiss someone you spent an hour with giving career advice.
There’s a lot of subtlety here that I should flesh out a bit. You’re not trying to “game” people. If you don’t put in the effort and do your research, your initial meeting will come off as a con. It’s very difficult to fake sincerity. So avoid contacting every single possible person you can. Focus on what you like.
Using personal contacts
Pretty self-explanatory and everyone is probably doing this already. Not going to spend time on this here.
When it comes to recruiters use as many as possible – i.e. upwards of 10.
I learned that most recruiters are a quick burn. You’ll get in contact with them, set up a meeting – usually that week – and go over what you’re looking for versus what they have. Nine times out of ten they will have something. Within the following week you’ll touch up your resume and prepare a cover letter, or some other document that the employer needs. After that, the odds of hearing back from your recruiter hover around zero. They are very helpful though. They’ll teach you what’s out there for new CA’s, give you resume and career advice. You will get a lot out of working with them.
Save your time. Don’t do it.