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Let’s Play Six-Degrees-of-Getting-a-Job

Did you ever play that game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? You know the one based loosely on the notion of six degrees of separation that says any two people in the world are, on average, about six acquaintances apart. Let’s play Six-Degrees of getting a job.

Like I know a woman from the gym who was walking in New York and talking rudely about old Kevin, when she stopped at a stoplight and who turned around? Kyra Sedgwick — Mrs. Kevin Bacon. Bam, three-degrees of Kevin Bacon separation.

The Kevin Bacon part came about (thanks to our friends at Wikipedia) after a 1994 interview in which he told Premiere magazine that he had worked with everyone in Hollywood. First there was a news thread, and then some college students made it into a game (I’m sure there was drinking involved).

The reason I bring up the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is because of a post on the New York Times website titled, “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed.” Those NYT headline writers think they’re so witty.

The story suggests that in this ultra-tough hiring climate, we’re back to the great American “know-who” network wherein it’s who you know that gets you the interview.

The article suggests that hiring managers are skipping job-search sites like Monster.com in favor of their own network of employee suggestions. The NYT said that at Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, “Employee recommendations now account for 45 percent of nonentry-level placements at the firm, up from 28 percent in 2010. The company’s goal is 50 percent.”

This should come as little if any shock to anyone looking for a job. In my search I’ve tried to game the system by putting keywords in my cover letter and resume in the hope that the resume-reviewing software would somehow spit out my application from the reams of out-of-work applicants.

And I’ve taken the straight-forward approach and written from the heart, with about the same success. Slim and none. This is where the know-who network comes in.

In “Mending Wall,” American poet Robert Frost tells us “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Borrowing from Frost, I’d say good social media makes good neighbors — or good friends, or acquaintances, or simply allows you to reconnect with that guy you sat behind in third-hour biology back in the day. More specifically, LinkedIn makes for good neighbors.

LinkedIn not chain link: My best luck in landing interviews is to play the LinkedIn network for all it’s worth. I’d say more than 50 percent of the interviews I’ve gone on are the result of reaching out to someone I know on LinkedIn.

The key is to build up your network. If you see a listing for XYZ company, the best thing you can do is plug it into the search function of LinkedIn to see: 1) who you might know there; 2) who might be a secondary or tertiary connection to somebody there; 3) former employees.

Be A Good Neighbor: Good fences make good neighbors and that means don’t over-assume. LinkedIn tends to overextend a little on its connections, so be sure to ask your buddy if they really know the contact, or if it’s a LinkedIn anomaly.

Be polite about asking for an introduction or to have someone reach out on your behalf. This is a favor, and your friend is risking their reputation.

Do your homework: Looking at LinkedIn can often give you background on the company that you may not get from the corporate website. Once you land an interview, it’s important to look at the profile of the person you’re interviewing with, the company and all of its social media components. This will tell you if it’s a buttoned-down environment or Casual Friday every day.

Through the Looking Glass: Remember Alice, LinkedIn works both ways. You can look at them, and they can look at you. You should wear your suit to your LinkedIn interview. This isn’t where you post pictures of your 30th birthday or post pithy tweets, save those for Facebook.

LI can get you hired; Facebook can keep you from it: Be careful with your social media. Facebook is fun and casual. It’s also the first place hiring managers look once they’ve sized up your LinkedIn account. So even before you reach out to a friend to help you get hired, take down the party pix and the rant about your former roommate, it won’t serve you well.

Don’t be a stalker: Just as you can see whose looking at your LI profile, others can see when you are scanning theirs. So you don’t want to make a habit of checking the hiring manager’s profile every day while you wait for a response.

I’ve heard two schools of thought regarding reaching out directly with someone on LI after an interview. I know some people argue that it shows ambition for you to try to connect with a hiring manager or future boss via LinkedIn or Twitter. Others will tell you not to be intrusive and let the interviewer make the next move.

I’d go slowly on this front. It’s always better to be a good neighbor.

And if all else fails, tell them you know Kevin Bacon.

Share your tips on getting a job in the comments below.

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photo credit: bark via photopin cc

About G Peters

Life during the last five years has read a lot like a country song for Greg. Got laid off ­– got hired. Went to work, and then the new job expired. Went back on the street looking for work, but who’s going to hire somebody older than dirt? Worked the graveyard shift for a year or two, hoping against hope to find something new ­– and at long last did, working in communications for a university. Dream job is still blogger-in-residence for YourCompany.Com, but thankful every day to have a workplace to call home. Best advice: never stop believing in yourself. Check out Xogdog's blog at www.xogdog.wordpress.com/.