The Internet Suck

Job seekers must learn to use the internet wisely, and not be used by it.

Most job seekers never escape the “Internet Suck.” But you can.

Several years ago, I coined a phrase to describe what happens to most job seekers the moment they begin their searches.  They get pulled into the desperate vortex I affectionately call “The Internet Suck.”

It looks like this.  You sit down at the computer to check out a job board.  The job board suggests you read an article on what not to wear to an interview.  That gets you curious about what the stars wore to the latest award show.  So why not go to YouTube and see highlights from the Best Short-Subject Documentary nominations?  And on and on until they’re turning off the lights and hosing down the espresso machines, and you look around and think, ‘What happened?”

Most people never claw their way out.  You read about them in the paper and hear about them on t.v. and the radio.  “I applied to 60 jobs this week and didn’t get a single response!”  And this goes on week after week, month after month.  I want to shout back, “Is that all you’re doing!”

Savvy job seekers know that most jobs are not found on-line.  Never were–no matter how much Monster and Career Builder, with their clever Super Bowl ads, want you to believe it.  Ask yourself, “How have I gotten most of my jobs?”  The likely answer is that someone tipped you off.  Someone referred you to the right person.  Or you got into the right conversation at the right moment–at the right party or on the right plane ride or at the right conference.

You got the job through your network.  You talked to people.  The people in your industry got to know you and your expertise–and what you were looking for.  You established relationships and built trust, such that people were willing to give you insider information on available jobs, or introduce you to people who had that information.

You became what career professionals call the “known candidate.”  Known candidates are most likely to succeed.

Even when most jobs appeared in the “help wanted” section of your local newspaper, networking is how the vast majority of jobs were landed.

The Internet hasn’t changed that equation.  The Internet, with all its job boards and company websites, and Twitter alerts and LinkedIn updates and postings, has become an invaluable tool.  But it is just that.  A tool.  A resource.  For most people, it cannot succeed as a method, a strategy unto itself.

So what can I do about it?

The Internet teaches us about the market.  It tells us where there may be opportunities.  But when one of my clients finds a highly interesting posting on-line, they head straight to their network–LinkedIn, alumni associations, professional associations, friends and colleagues–to find someone that can get them a personal, HUMAN introduction to that organization, if they don’t have one already.

In “normal” economic times, it was estimated that between 25-40% of jobs were found by applying on-line.   In today’s climate, with the avalanche of resumes that accompany each job posting, what do you think that number has shrunk to?  I’d say the single digits, easily.

So why is anyone surprised that they’re making very little progress when spending 90% of their job search on-line?

Decide in advance how much of your time per day will be used on this research tool, and stick to it.

I am not saying that things are not extremely challenging for many, many people in the job market.  I am simply saying working smarter, not harder, in your search, may help you–as well as that guy you heard about on the radio.

So use the Internet and use it wisely.  Don’t let it use you.