The Hard Facts: The Job-Search Social

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?


Filed under The Search

7 responses to “The Hard Facts: The Job-Search Social

  1. Anonymous

    My future job I got because I know a girl who works there. She told me the day that 2 people quit so I could get my resume in. Then during my interview I was told she had been singing my praises.


  2. Kris

    I’ve had three jobs in my professional career and two of the three were obtained using social connections. I’d imagine if/when I venture into a new job search that social connections will be my main resource. Not sure I’d agree with the results of this NC State study.

  3. I think that knowing someone does have a huge role in the job hunt, especially now-a-days. With the job market being so poor you cant just rely on your experience because there are 100 more applicants with the same experience and possibly with more trying for that same position. I have run into the same issue. Because I don’t have many social connections and have to rely only on my resume and experience with hasn’t been much. I was at the same company for almost six years. I never seem to get calls on my resume unless its a commission only, no benefits job. Its very depressing because I have a lot to offer.

  4. I have a funny job search story….after graduating from college with a degree in business, I moved all my belongings back home to my parent’s house. My father helped me craft a resume, which honestly sounded like I should be retiring rather looking for an entry level position. I was appreciative, but I wasn’t really sweating it as I was having fun reconnecting with high school friends and was busy hanging out at the pool. After several weeks of this, my Dad had had enough. He sat me down and said, “listen – I’m glad you are having fun – BUT…I did not pay for 4 years of college for you to have a nice tan”. He emphasized that I needed to take my job search seriously and said “a job won’t just come to you, you need to pound the pavement”. Much chagrined, I agreed to try harder. Well, the very next day the doorbell rang…. It was our next door neighbor who said “I heard you graduated from college and are looking for a job, would you like to come to work for me?” Many years later, and after a fabulous career that I could never have dreamed of….I have to agree, a social contact definitely benefitted me in my job search.
    (P.S. – my Dad threw up his hands and said my next door neighbor had totally undermined his role as a Father/advisor. In later years, my Dad loved telling this story and he was always, always very proud of me and remained my greatest fan)

  5. I’ve been reading for a few weeks now but this is my first time commenting (found out about you from a commenter over on Marian Schembari’s site –

    This research played out in my own life while I was fully employed. My jobs during college were mostly go-get ’em types (though a few were working for professors who I knew from class); both internships I did (one at a book publishing house and one in a marketing dept) were go-get’ems, and the FT editing position I found after college was something I stumbled across blindly too.

    However since going freelance full time I’ve found it’s all about warm leads–and even a slight “knowing someone” goes SO far. I did a guest post for an author: she hires me to edit a book. I write a few posts for someone else’s site: a friend of theirs contacts me to do copywriting work. I land a handful of assignments through an old boss. etc etc etc.

    I wonder if it’s a matter of age/experience? If women with more industry experience have better luck reaching through their networks (perhaps because they are larger, perhaps because they’ve proven they can do w/e they are interested in) vs. someone with little experience where the person giving the recommendation is taking a bigger risk?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s