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So what do I do?


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I went to a meeting for job seekers on Wednesday. Something the guest speaker said confirmed something I suspected. My lack of success in finding a job has something to do with a problem I have had all my life: making friends.

He told us that half of all jobs are gotten by people who are already working at the company looking to fill the job. Out of the remaining jobs that are filled with people from outside, half are filled by people who were referred by someone already working there. So your best shot at getting a job somewhere you want is to know someone who works there. But to know them you have to have met them, and they have to like you. So on some level they have to be your friend.

I have had trouble making friends, first because I was an outcast, and then later because all those years of being an outcast cost me years that I could have been learning what to do. I am still trying to learn what I didn't learn back then.

The times when I did become friends with people socially, I wasn't able to take advantage of the employee referral because they worked at places I didn't want to work, or at places that weren't hiring for what I can do.

Now that I have an idea of the career I want to pursue, I am trying to find out where in Cincinnati do people socialize who are in the field I am trying to break into, to see if I can break into their social circle so that they would see me as a friend and try to help me get a job. But I am trying to do this while battling various insecurities and anxieties, and while still learning how to make friends.

I know it sounds selfish to try to become friends with people hoping that it will lead to a job, but right now I don't know what all I could do to reciprocate in a professional way since I am not a professional. I am trying to build my own connections, so I can't currently really be a connector, unless they are looking for something unrelated to my intended field.

But it is very frustrating because I sacrificed trying to make friends when I was a kid because for one thing, I was rejected for being a good student, and the other thing is that I thought back then that being a good student would make everything work out in my favor.

It's also frustrating because I was fortunate to not have to deal with problems at home, so I don't have any mental health problems that stem from abuse of any kind from home. But because I was never in an environment where I felt it was safe and nonthreatening enough to be myself, I was not able to learn what I needed to know in order to form healthy relationships as an adult. And I hate that it is affecting my ability to succeed professionally, since the one thing I could always count on as a kid was doing well in school. So I thought the one thing I would always be able to count on was having a good job to go to, even if I didn't do anything socially after work. And even that is out of my reach since the best way to get a job is to have friends.

My plan was always to get the good job, then work on my social life, to have the friends, and the women that eluded me in high school and college. So I hate that I had to already know what I want to work on for my personal life in order to have a professional life. Which means I am not making any progress on either front.

I feel lied to and deceived about the value of education. If I had learned early enough that having friends is what was most important, I would have made friends with people who already knew what I was trying to learn, and picked their brains. I wouldn't have wasted the six years in college that I did.

Or, if I were able to have friends in high school, I could have bounced ideas off of them as far as where to go to college and what to major in, so that the school I went to wouldn't have been the one that offered the full scholarship, and the major I picked wasn't just the one that was my best subject.

If I had known my college education wasn't going to get me anywhere, I would have spent more time trying to find parties to go to, so that I could have at least enjoyed it more and have good memories to recall.

I hate that this friends thing is coming back to haunt me, because I remember clearly ways that I could have been in better situations as a child in order to be around a more non-threatening peer group to truly work on the social skills I still need to hone. Now I am stuck dealing with the damage to my self-esteem, my ability to be assertive, my ability to do the give and take of friendships as well as relationships with women, and my ability to earn a living.

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Hi there,

It is true that a lot of people get on by "it's not what you know but who". But that doesn't have to be the case. And I wouldn't feel bad about making friends for this...most people just call that "networking".

And I know what you mean about education. I know a lot of people who put themselves through years, have debts and end up doing nothing connected. But I think being education and just allowing ourselves to mature is sometimes valuable. figuring out what we want to do.

But if you now have an idea of what you want to do it isn't necessarily about making friends in that field. It's about research and not giving up. Is there any work experience you can do? I have very few friends and got my job by doing a little bit of work experience and showing how enthusiastic I was.

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Are there any volunteer opportunities in your chosen field? What about trade shows or job fairs -- will any of those options apply? Also, how do you feel about your chosen field. I'm hoping you really love it because that kind of enthusiasm shines through and that could be an excellent means of attracting a potential employer's eyes.

I feel lied to and deceived about the value of education. If I had learned early enough that having friends is what was most important, I would have made friends with people who already knew what I was trying to learn, and picked their brains. I wouldn't have wasted the six years in college that I did.

Do you really think all those people who were hired managed to keep their jobs as based on their friendships alone? I'm sure that a person's education rates very highly with employers.

Consider also that some employers are not fond of the social networking and water cooler gossip that goes on in many workplace settings -- they might prefer someone who shows up, does their job and goes home. You could be exactly the kind of guy (or gal -- sorry, I don't know what your gender is) that they're looking for. If that's part of your personal make-up, try to sell yourself in an environment where that's considered an asset such as a position where you might have to work independently a great deal of the time.

Meantime, maybe this brief blurb will also give you some ideas for what you can do...

Network, Network, Network

I am sure you have heard this before. Networking is the most important activity in a job search and the most effective way to find a job. We are not saying you should become an annoying beggar, calling every Dick and Harry you’ve ever bumped into in the past asking for a job. That is not going to get you very far.

But you should definitely send out the message that you are available. You can do this in subtle ways: one of the most effective techniques is to ask others for advice. Everybody loves giving advice and, in the conversation, if the person has a position that he or she feels you would qualify for, it will come up without you having to ask for it. You can also ask for a reference and, inevitably, someone is going to know someone who knows someone who has just the job opening you are looking for.

Make sure you attend industry events where you can meet new people and hear the latest trends and buzz words. You don’t need to wear a banner on your forehead saying you are looking for a job. Remember, the purpose of attending these events is not necessarily to find a position, but to grow your network, to keep you up to date on what is going on in your field. You may hear about a company that is growing, a technology that is hot, or a subject matter that is getting lots of attention. Then go get yourself educated so you can speak intelligently about those topics to your next prospective employer or in an information interview.

Source: How to Find a Job in a Tough Market

Good luck.

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You know, "networking" is perfectly acceptable and is nothing to feel guiltuy about. There are all different types and levels of "friendship" and some of them are purely on a professional level. IF you did have a job and went to lunch on a weekly basis with say 3 or 4 people, you would develop a "friendship" of sorts, but merely a professional one. These are people you could possibly turn to later on for job help, etc., and they would expect the same from you. Its a give and take situation and both parties expect to benefit. The fact that you have nothing to offer now, as you said, doesn't mean you won't be able to return the favor someday when another young upstart is in your shoes! So, I wouldn't feel guilty about any of this. Now, seeking people out just so you can use their contacts, IMO, is different. That is a situation where you are using people. But, if you begin seeking out people in your field who have similar interests and form relationships with those people, then as your friendship develops I think they will want to assist you. Thats my .02 as a former professional who got my first job in my field when I met the father of one of my Sunday School students and he just happened to be the president of the company I had just applied to work at! Yeah, he helped me get the job, but what I did with that job was all on me!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Whenever I post somewhere like this, the responses always zero in on trying to give job seeking advice. Let me put it this way: I went to a career coach who has said that I have done so much research on job seeking that I could do her job.

What I am dealing with has to do with more than just finding a job.

People make networking sound like more than it is.

Networking = making friends

My problem is that I did not learn how to make friends when everyone else did, which is when they were kids.

And I am finding it difficult to catch up now.

My plan was to do so in high school, because I thought that because you had to pass a test to get into it, that the other kids would be intelligent and sophisticated. I found when I got there that in many cases, the kids were just like the ones anywhere else, and so for most of the time I was there, I was uncomfortable to actually be myself because of so much experience being reacted to with hostility simply for being different.

When I got to college, I didn't really try to make friends after my freshman year, because I thought that if I did the work and got the degree, my work would speak for itself when I went to look for a job.

It wasn't until after I was done with school and actually looking that I found out that networking, and not sending your resume to a company, was the best way to get a job.

It wasn't until recently that I made the connection that all networking is is making friends. Just like you have friends you go drinking with, or to play tennis or golf with, these are the friends you share job leads with.

If I knew how to make and keep friends, I would know how to make and keep networking contacts, and vice versa.

In both cases, I can't figure out how to get these people to want to call me first without me calling them, how to get them to respond if I contact them first, and how to come up with reasons to contact them to be ready with should they ask the specific question "Why are you calling?"

To answer spiritual_emergency, I am not convinced that everyone who keeps a job keeps it because they are good at it. I think most of them got their jobs because they found it first, and they keep it because they don't do anything egregious to call attention to themselves. I am becoming more and more aware of how mediocre most people are, and how so many of the things I used to think you had to be smart in order to do, pretty much they'll take anyone.

Which is why I would have been better served being somewhere that I felt safe to make friends back when I was told that I should be working hard to get good grades. Pretty much all that matters is meeting the right people and being persuasive enough to get what you want from them, whether it is personal or professional, but I am only now learning that, which means I have to catch up with millions of people who aren't as capable as I am academically, or when it comes to most jobs, but are better than I am at getting people to like them because that's what they were working on while I was trying to get good at what they teach you in school

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