There's a secret to landing a job and it's word of mouth

Job seekers are in isolation when on the employment hunt, surfing the internet and online job sites behind their PC and smartphone screens. A growing body of findings reveal that they are going about things the wrong way.

How our ancestors and Abu Dhabi's older generations found work during the pre-oil eramay seem another world for the job hunters of 2011. It did not require the hassle of writing resumes or preparing for irritating job interviews.

In the early 20th century, Abu Dhabi's job fair was less sophisticated and did not require the construction of stands costing Dh40,000 (US$10,900) plus, such as those held now at Abu Dhabi's National Exhibition Centre - or indeed the presence of human resources managers.

Back then, the search was done in public,and the work could be physically demanding under the burning sun. Young men headed to the Central Market in search for work, armed with the secret ingredient to land them a job.

What is that you may ask? One of the oldest form of communication known to man - word of mouth.

The quest, usually involved job seekers personally asking each merchant, or in some cases their relatives, if help was needed, or asking who else might need a hand

Compare that picture to our present time, where the annual job fairs apart, today's unemployed are - virtually and physically - invisible.

That is because job seekers are in isolation when on the employment hunt, surfing the internet and online job sites behind their PC and smartphone screens.

A growing body of findings reveal that today's job seekers are going about things the wrong way.

They are firing off dozens of resumes, via organisations' "careers" Web pages instead of first focusing on their personal and physical-world connections, which would bring a much quicker response.

We cannot deny that these findings are partially applicable in the UAE's situation, or anywhere in fact.

We all know that it would take a job seeker far less time to get work, if he or she personally knew someone who knew someone in their desired organisation or field. They would be spared the anxious wait, and the dramatic questions, "Do they like me, or do they not?" and "Why haven't they answered me yet?"

With the economic downturn hitting the big markets of the US and Europe, times are tough and jobs are turning out to be much harder to find. Everywhere I turn it seems that more companies are cutting across the board.

If your company is not among those that had to reduce its workforce, I am sure you at least know someone who has been laid off or who is trying to find employment.

Without a doubt, it can be tough to find a job in times like these, especially if you have not accumulated a respectable amount of experience.

But I came to realise that there are a few tricks that can help you to navigate through the craziness, and hopefully land you a job soon.

Adopt this as your cardinal rule: never underestimate the power of networking and word of mouth. Ask your friends, relatives, colleagues, if they know about any job openings.

Personal connections are what worked for one of my fellow writer friends.

She was looking to contribute to a magazine, and approached me to ask if I knew of anyone looking for writers. Luckily, only a few days back one of my colleagues, an editor, told me she had a spot for a young writer to address their youth readers.

Voila. There it was, she landed a writing post simply by asking around.

It would also be helpful to create accounts at professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, which offers a great way to grow your network base and meet fellow job searchers and employers. After taking resume writing classes as part of my curriculum in England, I somehow ended up rewriting resumes for my friends, and then their friends' friends.

I cannot tell you the number of times my friends who worked in human resources departments told me about the poorly written resumes they had received.

"The job market is very competitive. It's not like before. People have to wait for months in some cases to be employed. The least ... candidates could do is invest time in preparing an attractive CV," says Marwan Yaqoub, an Emirati human resource associate.

Give your resume a facelift. One common mistake I came across when fixing many resumes, is people focusing on their abilities and their lives and what they desire to learn from the targeted organisation.

Prospective employers want to know what you have to offer them, not what you want to gain.

Highlight your achievements, and demonstrate that you know the industry's business.

Be realistic. To all fresh graduates and those with few years of experiences, understand that you may not instantly get the position or salary you desire.

I am all for aiming high and dreaming big. But this is not the ideal time to try to jump to a managerial level when so many people with years of executive experience are being laid off.

Many companies will require fresh graduates and those with less than two years experience to start at a lower level, before joining the big boys upstairs.

Yes it's a job seeker eating job seeker world out there, but you can increase your chance of gaining employment by thinking differently - and borrowing some old school networking tips.

Manar Al Hinai, an Emirati, is a fashion designer and writer based in Abu Dhabi. She recently was named an Arab Woman of the Year

Published: August 27, 2011 04:00 AM

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