If you’re fed up with your job hunt and nothing seems to be working, here’s a novel strategy: avoid recruiters.
Most people who are looking for a job rely on recruiters to find it for them. They send out their CV’s, make a few follow up phone calls, meet a few recruiters for coffee and then sit back and wait.
Sometimes this works. Most of the time, it doesn’t.
The reality is that if you adopt this method, most of the best opportunities will simply pass you by. The financial services employment market is inefficient. Why allow recruiters to make it even more so?
How can you go it alone? The answer, my friends, is networking. Most people do it, but they do it half-heartedly. Ie. They tell their closest circle of friends that they’re not happy in their current role or that they’ve been made redundant, but the stigma of not being in a good place professionally means that it usually ends there.
There’s wisdom in this. Closest friends are likely to push hardest on your behalf. But closest friends are by definition a small and limited group. Personally, I like to network a little more broadly and have used the method below. It works for me, but it involves time and commitment. If you’re prepared to follow it, it will probably work for you too. If not, take your chances with the recruitment lottery, but don’t be surprised if you get nowhere.
1) Make spreadsheet of everyone you know
I’m talking about every single person on every email account and all those to whom you’re linked on social media.
2) Add a “Notes” column
Add information on favours you’ve done for that person recently or any other reasons for them to help you, etc.
3) Classify them into high /medium / low priority.
This will be a combination of how well you know them and how much clout they have. Apply the 80/20 rule: try to end up with less people in the “High Priority” category. They’ll be most helpful to you so focus on them.
4) Draft a short email explaining that you’d like to meet them (ideally) or call them (realistically)
Don’t be too specific about why unless you feel necessary – frame it as a catch up meeting, a friendly chat. Most people view these as mutually beneficial, as long as they don’t have to give up much of their time. Be persistent and arrange a time to meet or have a call. Be prepared to go to someone’s office (or the local area) to make it more convenient for them.
5) When you meet, take an interest in them
Ask about their issues, needs and their personal lives (if you know them well enough).
Only when the time is right, ask for their help. Explain that you’re in the job market and have a short summary of your skillset and how it fits with your ideal role. Be really clear about what area you’re targeting; it’ll need to be specific or they’ll forget. Reiterate it at the end.
6) Follow up.
Afterwards, email a thank you note. Make notes in your spreadsheet of any help or contacts they’ve offered up but also what they need from you (a copy of your updated CV etc) and other important info about them as well. Do it soon after whilst everything’s fresh in your mind.
7) Revisit periodically, even if nothing concrete came of the first meeting.
Remind them of your situation (skillset, target role) , but start the email with something about them. How did your CFA exam / house hunt / internal job move / charity 10k run go? That’ll make the email look less like a plea for help, which it is, of course. But there’s no reason to make it sound selfishly all about you.
Lastly send emails and make calls at optimal times of the week, thinking about when it would be easiest for them to spend a minute or two dealing with you. And remember to carry out step 7 even after you’ve found a job. Your network is an asset which you’ll use again in future.
The author has worked in various roles across banking and asset management.