Our Take: The Finale - Networking Doesn't Work? A Real World Story to Show That It Does

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As the financial job market gradually recovers, it's reversing the old saw that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is when you lose yours. Instead, the sequence I've seen play out over the past year goes like this: A tentative recovery is when your friend's friend gets hired. A fragile recovery is when your friend gets hired. And a sustainable recovery is when you get hired.

By that measure, this recovery is sustainable. I recently accepted an opportunity to return to the finance career path that was interrupted in 2006. Today is my final day at eFinancialCareers News.

My three-plus years here have been an enriching experience. I've gained a bird's-eye view of segments of the business I'd only been dimly aware of, and a better grasp of the work lives of market professionals than I attained while working among them. Working here has also empowered me to give back to my profession by helping a great many principled, hard-working individuals traverse the whitewater job markets of recent years. I too have benefited from those interchanges with job seekers; some have blossomed into lasting friendships.

Most of all, I had the great fortune of working with eFC teammates who are long on ideas, enthusiasm and personality, and short on drama.

Three Takeaways

Having spent the last few years distilling potentially useful messages from job search experiences I was told about or observed from the front lines, it's only fitting that I exit on that note. Here, then, are three takeaways from my latest move.

1. Network as much as you can. And with new contacts especially, shift the medium of contact from virtual to face-to-face as soon as you can.

Yes, I know people - including myself on two occasions - who've landed good jobs through postings alone. I also know someone who aced an exam without cracking a book, and someone else who says he made money trading stocks with no research or trading system. If you're in finance, though, you're probably not content to rely on pure talent or pure luck. Rather than "heroically" defying the odds, you want an edge: You want to tilt the odds in your favor from the get-go. In job search, that means coming in with a referral or, better, a recommendation from someone the decision-maker knows.

2. If your network isn't good enough, deliberately and selectively go about expanding it. Use vacation time for this if you must.

I've already detailed how a friend I'd had no contact with since high school got me in to see a hiring manager in his organization. Another friend, of far more recent vintage, opened the path to two days of meetings with five managing directors in an organization whose job postings I had answered eight times with no response before he intervened.

3. Restrain your impulse to pass judgment on any prospective employer based on its hiring process alone.

Instead of viewing unexplained delays or some other "snub" as a red flag, think of every interview process as an absurd but necessary imposition you must bear gracefully to get to your goal - like removing your shoes for the TSA before boarding your flight to a resort island.

Even many companies that treat employees wonderfully use hiring practices that seem calculated to send good candidates running away. My discussions with my next employer (a firm praised by everyone I know) were so hot-then-cold, on-again-off-again, that I feared describing it with my wife in earshot because she'd think I must be talking about an affair.

D.E. Shaw uses a two-page questionnaire (including SAT and GRE test scores, college and grad school GPA) to help decide who they'll interview. For syndicated career columnist Liz Ryan, that's one of "six reasons to run from a job interview." But D.E. Shaw is probably among the five best-paying employers on earth. That tells me Liz Ryan's ideas came from somewhere else - somewhere "not like Europe," as Tom Cruise says in War of the Worlds.

Thomson Reuters's online application forces candidates to state a compensation requirement within a $5,000 range. In my opinion, it borders on unethical for an employer to leverage its market power to forcibly extract sensitive information from job seekers at such a premature stage. Yet my associates who've worked there speak highly of Thomson Reuters.

My stint as a virtual career adviser has run its course. I hope something you read on eFC News during my years here contributed a tidbit of insight, information, resolve or even comfort, that helps your transition proceed to a rewarding conclusion.

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