It’s Network, Or Not Work

by Christine Brugman, Air National Guard spouse

You’ve probably done it: Arrived in a new town after a PCS and started filling out job application after job application. And you got nowhere.

The key for new-in-town job hunters isn’t filling out forms. It’s connecting with local community resources to meet people who can help you tap into the hidden job market.

Hidden job market

Ever run into an emergency where you’ve needed a plumber or handyman, or needed a great stylist after a PCS? Did you pick someone out of the phone book or contact someone you knew for a recommendation? We like referrals from someone we know, because they’re more efficient, less risky and bring a higher rate of satisfaction. The same logic applies in any kind of hiring.

Posting job ads and sorting through potential candidates is costly and time-consuming. It also involves risk. It’s easier, cheaper and safer for the hiring manager to recruit from friends and professional contacts within their networks. If they’ve heard through their contacts that you’re hardworking and talented, they’ll want to interview you.

According to a 2010 survey released by the global career management firm Impact Group, networking is the most important job search strategy for people seeking professional employment.

46% of those surveyed said that at salary levels over $60,000, networking remains the most effective method for finding and landing employment.

About one-third of hires at the companies surveyed came through referrals. 18% were internal referrals and 9% were external referrals.

Some people do get hired through job applications. But major job boards boast a measly 4% average response rate! So don’t spend the first year of your new assignment behind the computer completing online applications, quietly hoping for a call back. Jump right into an informal interview situation at a local networking or social venue.

How much to do it

I suggest spending…

– about 35 percent of your job-hunting time on networking efforts

– no more than 25 percent of your time submitting online applications

– about 25 percent of your time researching companies/organizations you might want to work for

– about 15 percent on all kinds of other job-hunting tactics

How to do it

Social Networking – LinkedIn is huge: Nearly all employers (92 percent) in a recent survey actively hire using social media, with 78 percent using LinkedIn. Try LinkedIn Groups, which exposes you to potential networking partners and increases your overall connections. Engage, ask questions or become a subject matter expert! In the process, you may hear about job opportunities.

Formal Networking – A sure way of meeting hiring managers and recruiters is to attend business socials and industry or association events. Find them and attend, with your 30-second elevator speech prepared!

Informal Networking – Use FRANK! That stands for Friends, Relatives, Associates/Alumni, Neighbors and Kids. These are all people within your primary network who could provide job leads and advice. The people they know may surprise you. Treat every venue as a networking opportunity.

Where to Do It

1. Military Family Centers

Immediately after you PCS, walk into your military family center to ask about local job resources, scheduled training and networking events, and the local businesses and networks that they partner with. Ask to be added to their employment distribution list to get notified of job openings announced by Military Friendly Employers.

2. Workforce Centers

Workforce Centers aren’t just for people on unemployment. These publicly funded organizations support job seekers with job placement, help businesses find workers, and help anyone at any stage explore and plan careers.


Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups, making it easy for anyone to attend or organize a local group focusing on any subject.

4. Chamber of Commerce

Chamber members should know the general culture of member companies, can share job search advice, and will know who’s hiring. They also have committees you can join to network, learn and grow.

5. Staffing and Temp Firms

These firms are mainlined into the hidden job market and specialize in hiring for specific industry positions. Great way to get your foot in the door and “try before you buy!”

6. Spouse Clubs

Most installations have spouses’ clubs. Volunteer and join committees! These can later serve as valuable bullets on a resume and lead to paid opportunities.

7. LinkedIn

Anyone not using the professional networking site is missing out! It’s a great way to connect with previous co-workers and potential recruiters all while showcasing your experience!


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