I recently taught a class on job search skills at a local college and was surprised when one of the participants told her story about having an interview at a company. She mentioned how her son had worked there for many years, but she didn’t want to use his name, because she “wanted to get the job on my own merits.”

Her comment reminded me of the saying we’ve all heard, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Like Laura (not her real name), I can remember thinking negatively whenever I heard that someone got a job “like that.” Perhaps I was miffed I didn’t know anyone who could get me anywhere (at least anywhere I wanted to go). Somehow it made that practice seem underhanded and almost illegal.

In my HR career, there were many times where someone’s resume got reviewed because they knew someone. Indeed, several of the companies I worked at, gave an employee referral bonus for any employee who recommended a person who got the job. It’s the birds-of-a-feather syndrome with the theory being if your friend is a good employee, they will “flock” with similar types. (Note: It goes without saying to make sure the person referring you–IS a good employee.)

In all my experience, I can say that the referral got the resume or application reviewed, it didn’t guarantee a job. The individual still needed to be qualified for the job and be the right fit.

I’m not so naive to think that is always the way it is. Sure there are people that get jobs because their father or father-in-law or mother-in-law is the CEO or owner. It happens. We can’t change that. But in this day where the right jobs are few and far between, don’t hesitate to utilize a contact as a segue to have your resume reviewed. If you’re writing a cover letter, mention the person’s name in your introduction.

And don’t worry…you’ll have plenty of time to prove your own merits.

Although your network can be the key to your next transition, I find a lot of job seekers resist it. While it does take time to do–it could make or break your success.

Perhaps folks are uncomfortable with asking someone if they have a job. But here’s the good news–you don’t have to do that. Matter of fact, you should not do it. You are simply asking for some information.

First, do your homework. What is your job target? Can you come up with a list of companies where your target job would exist? Then, write a list of everyone you know. Identify which folks you feel most comfortable in talking with first (for whatever reason).

Then, you go on a scavenger hunt–trying to get information from each of those folks. You goal? To get to either a person who has a similar job like you want or find one of your targeted companies.

Before you contact anyone–imagine how your informational interview will go. How will you start your discussion? What questions will you ask? What information do you want from that person? How will you end it? How will you contact this person? People love to talk about their career journey, so having a good conversation with folks should be fairly easy.

Then start with one of the people on your list–start with an easy prospect first to give yourself practice. Besides some answers to your questions, ask the person on your list to give you 2 more names to contact. In that way your list of 10 will grow to 30.

If you continue to follow this recipe, your network will pretty soon increase like bunnies!

The big news today was that my NC area had the highest rise in unemployment rates in the state this past month. Not news that anyone wants to hear.

While it’s hard not to get caught up in doom and gloom when all the news seems to be negative, you have to pull yourself up and choose the path that leads to success. One road leads to giving up and the other one is focused on possibilities.

Understand what you have control over. You can’t guarantee interviews or job offers, but you can control the process and what you are doing that increases your chances for a successful outcome.

Are you organized? How do you track your progress or what you’ve done? One thing you can do is to create two spreadsheets. One for your networking contacts and the other for jobs you applied to, phone interviews and replies etc.

How does your resume serve you? I am surprised how poorly written most resumes are. Is your resume focused on your past responsibilities? Or have you taken care in identifying your position targets and have incorporated key words  so that your resume will be selected for viewing?

Are you resisting the power of social media? Do you know how to utilize social media to your advantage? If not, there are many sites on line where you can learn more about how to make them work for you!

Are you trying to do your job search alone? It can be lonely out there! Find a few trusted friends who will support you in the process and help you keep up your spirits. A career club is a great way to get guidance on your job search and also provide you regular support from people who are in the same situation as you are.

As the old cliche goes, if you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. This is 2011–time to shake it up!

Sign up for a free critique on your resume or if you’re in the Asheville area, let me know if you are interested in my career club starting in February! (see my web site for more information)!

Although I’ve often heard about the theory of  “6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon”–I never stopped to think about how this applies to networking.  I’m sure you’ve met someone who knew someone you knew or lived near your old house or came from your home town.  Well, make that principle work for you in networking.

Whether you’re a small business owner or looking for a job or  information–start with your current network of friends and family. Maybe the person you know can direct you to someone  who is in your targeted profession and maybe that person knows someone who works in one of the companies you want to work in.

I quickly learned in business, you cannot predict who might be able to connect you with a referral or potential client. It started soon after I got my coaching certification–I was selling my house and my Realtor knew someone who was in a transition and might be open to coaching.  It took me by surprise then, but now I have seen how making connections works in the most surprising way.

LinkedIn and Facebook are excellent ways to expand your network. Adding quality comments or questions on a regular basis.  Get your “people” to help you.  Then, look at the connections of your friends and family.  Add folks that you think might be worthwhile to add to your own network.  That’s the way it grows–one person at a time!

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Although I had your business card for a few weeks, I hesitated calling you until one day, I just felt inspired to contact you. Am I glad I did! After applying for literally hundreds of jobs this past year with not even one interview…after sending the résumé you created for me, not only did I get the interview, but I got the job! I feel that God inspired me to move forward and sent you into my life when I needed it the most. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
—J. Bloomfield, Asheville, NC


So, thought I'd brighten your day!  My new supervisor complimented my resume. She said she liked the summary at the top. She also commented that she wasn't positive that my background would've jumped out as a perfect match, but it was written in a way that highlighted my skills as a match for her needs. The resume you wrote for me did much more than any of those things, however. It changed the way I view myself.  It supported me, and gave me a confidence that I was lacking at that time. When I first saw your draft, I didn't immediately connect with it, yet I knew it was all truth. It grew on me, or I grew into it. By the time I walked into those last 2 interviews, I had a new confidence. Something deeper than just knowing I could do the job. I knew I was the right choice. That confidence, that knowing, attracted those jobs to me as surely as my credentials well presented.  It was both, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 
—J. Everson, Bloomfield, KY


I just wanted to write and let you know how much I appreciate your help with my resume. It worked!!! I have had 3 interviews, a step I did not reach before. While I have not received a job offer yet, I know it is just a matter of time before I find a position that is the right fit. Your help with the resume made all the difference!
—L. McLamb Asheville


I have built my business through satisfied clients so I cherish testimonials. One of the most stand-out testimonials that was given to me was shared by a client I coached to help her with an upcoming interview.

This client told me later, that she had met a woman at a community event. Jen shared about looking for a position and was telling her about the "biz coach" who prepped her for the interview. The other woman mentioned how she found this excellent person to do her resume and that the résumé itself was highly complemented on in her interview. And best yet, she got the job in the end! In a few minutes, they deducted they were both talking about the same person…ME!