It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“When it comes to finding a job, who you know is as important as what you know. Work experience generally helps people foster the kinds of personal contacts that can lead someone to new career opportunities, but a study from North Carolina State University shows that this is really only true for men. The study finds that work experience doesn’t improve women’s chances of finding a job through social contacts..” (“In Job Market, Social Contacts Help Men, Not Women” ; Science Daily 8/17/2011)
I find this research curious. Maybe even ridiculous. Every job I’ve been offered has started with knowing someone. I like to believe I’ve earned the positions I’ve received, through my charming (translation: shaky voice, hand-wringing, obvious nerves) interview and jaw-dropping (read: font small enough to still fit on one page) resume. And I think it’s true. But the introduction to each office job–the alert of the opening, or the passing of my resume, etc–has been through a social contact. (This doesn’t include my summer internships, which I most definitely approached with the go-get-‘em attitude of an eager beaver and tracked down all by myself. Woohoo.)
I heard about my very first job out of college, a short-lived freelance editorial assistant position at an over-40 women’s magazine, through a girl I’d done an internship program with the summer before. She held the job currently, was leaving, and was looking for someone to replace her. I got connected with my next job, as an editorial assistant at another women’s magazine, through a friend’s mom. She was an editor at Glamour and had friends all over magazine publishing. She passed my resume to a pal who said “sorry, no openings!” until two days later when her assistant quit and she emailed back with “send that resume again?” I once got a job offer because my rabbi knew I was looking and he passed my resume to a congregant who was also a big-time Editor-in-Chief. When I moved to Chicago and switched over to web, someone at my magazine job made a call for me, sent my resume, and I was able to get a meeting with an HR person at my Chicago gig. You see? These introductions started with social contacts. Friends, or at least people I was friendly with.
(I’m realizing now that there was one gig I got blindly. Though you might say that the HR person was a friend, considering I called and harassed her about the status of the position more often than I call my besties.)
Anyway, the point of this trip down Rachel’s resume is to say that, personally, I see no support for this research in my own life. According to these researchers, “The study finds that work experience is important, in large part because it helps us develop social connections that can help people learn about future job opportunities. … However, while men reap the social benefits of work experience, women do not.”
The piece goes on to say: “Women…were no more likely to find a job through informal recruitment than they were through a formal job search.”
I don’t particularly care for this research in that I think the social game of work is important. You put all this effort into meshing well and being civilized to people, it’d be nice to think that the extra work might pay off one day (obviously, the simple act of being a decent human being pays off, but you know what I mean.) To think that despite making those connections, you’ll have to face the job market with no social support is crummy. Though, if you’re someone who hates socializing in the office or hasn’t had luck with your co-workers, maybe this is good news? At least it puts you on a level playing field with all other women? (Even though men have a huge leg up with their social contacts? Gross.)
But research is not to be liked nor disliked, but discussed and debated until it provokes another set of research to contradict its findings. So go ahead: discuss, debate, contradict. Have you found that social contacts help me in the job market more than women?