I’m at the point where I want to start asking people if they know any job openings/get me a job where you work, goddammit. I’ve never gotten a decent job without already knowing someone who worked there, but I hate asking things like this. It makes me feel like I’m taking advantage of people.
Honestly, other than my first job (which was on campus and helped pay my college tuition), every job I applied for and received (or “collected” after I became an independent consultant and had to curate my own projects) has been through networking. I even have a coworker who has boasted that in all his 40+ years working, he has never needed to write a resume because his entire career had been built through referrals. This strategy has worked immensely well for me thus far, and I have never been bothered by it for several reasons:
1) Depending on the industry and the location, there is a high probability that the people who get the job I’m applying for (and not me) had used their own connections. In fact, sometimes one can’t even get their foot in through the door without going through an internal referral system (no matter what positions they may post for open application on their website). In these cases, by not using what connections you have, you are not giving up an unfair advantage - you are actually giving up what is helping to level the playing field for YOU.
2) There is nothing which can force an employer to hire me if they truly feel I am unqualified, and getting the job in the first place is not a complete and accurate reflection of my abilities, personality, or adaptability … and there is no reason to expect an employer to know either, through just a one page resume and maybe a 20 minute interview. That is where the referral HELPS. But what is incumbent upon me AFTER I get the job is to prove that I can contribute meaningfully to the business. If I do, then they benefit just as much as I do, and there is no reason to believe that anyone - my referrer, my employer, my coworkers, etc - should be unhappy about this. Quite the contrary; they have received exactly what they asked for, which is a contributing member of the team. You have actually done them a favor, in that case.
3) I am willing, and have many times in the past, helped make referrals for my friends. I have not felt burdened by this, and in fact, I have only been happy to try and help a friend’s chances of being gainfully employed - a happy, income-earning friend is much easier to be around than an anxious, unemployed one. (Actually, I had all but dragged one of my college buds out to my first job and helped push him through the company’s door - he’s not only been with the company for 8 years and running, but he married and bought a house in the area. I would say that it turned out rather well for both him and the company - and in my time there, I gained a friendly and familiar face to work with who knew all our college in-jokes.)
If someone truly feels that it would be a hardship to refer me, then they may tell me that they are unable to help me and I will accept it with good grace. I am hardly twisting their arm with just a simple question, and a polite retraction if they are uncomfortable or too busy to help.
Sorry if I come over pretty aggressively on this subject, but I feel very strongly that networking is just as valid and important a tool as good interviewing skills and resume writing, and it is something I have seen lots of women, in particular, decline to use. Partially, I think, because we tend to be more sensitive to social dynamics and perceived “fairness” - or, at least, this was so in my case and several others that I’ve counseled. It took me years to realize that I was hamstringing myself for an ideal that was actually looked down upon by many “professionals” - I was perceived as being inexperienced, or not aggressive, proactive, or decisive enough - not to mention that many times, my concerns were unfounded. People I knew were, far from being inconvenienced, HAPPY to help. Of course, there are ways to do it gracefully and ways to do it tastelessly, but that does not make it any less essential, particularly in the current job climate.
P.S. Something else to consider - if you know someone who works somewhere and are on good terms with them, then chances are that the job environment is more compatible with your personality, character, values, etc. than some other random job you’re doing a cold application for. Thus, perhaps the best jobs you find are through networking because you are already preferentially filtering for those that are filled with people you get along with. :) Just some food for thought!
P.P.S. I am always happy to accept friends’ resumes in case there are other people I can refer them to! I always like to keep a running list of folks in the back of my mind because of how much oddball stuff the start-up/venture community tends to need on an immediate basis. Work that network bb! :D