I was at a party talking about job hunting when person I was talking to rebutted with “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know”.
If you want a job in media, arts or culture, that approach still works. Hiring is still done with a smoke and a handshake at the back of the building.
If you want a job in construction, it still works too. You can show up on a job site with a tray of medium double doubles and get hired on to a project.
But if you want to work in a company or an industry that is large enough to have “pay bands”, then who you know is becoming less and less important. Pay bands are the key. If a company has laid out specific layers of responsibility and what they are worth, then they have also more than likely formalized the hiring process. This process has squeezed most of the personal connections and individuality right out. It’s all about databases and tracking systems.
This means that just because you connect with a hiring manager at some event and really hit it off, does not necessarily open the doors to the company. That manager can certainly feed your information into the hiring machine and maybe add his or her recommendation into the mix. Will this put you on the short list? Maybe.
This is not to say that networking is a waste of time. It isn’t. Networking is where you find out who is hiring and who has new projects. Consider it research. It is also where you practice talking about yourself; something that is difficult for most people. Successfully connecting with people gives you more confidence which, in turn, allows you to shine in an interview.
Bottom line: it’s what you know, who you know and how you talk about it.