Don’t apply, get your foot in the door!
A year ago I took a receptionist role in an organisation I was interested in as a ‘foot in the door’. I wasn’t looking for a receptionist role. A few of my friends told me it was too basic for my level of skills but the problem was that my CV did not reflect that. Applying directly for the type of role I was actually looking for was going to be a hard road.
In the interview I was sure to ask whether it was possible to move up the career ladder from reception and they assured me it was. The happy ending is that after eight months as a receptionist it did happen and I now have the type of job I was originally hoping for.
The reason I am telling this story is because a colleague recently said ‘I don’t know why they hired someone as capable and talented as you on reception’. I was flattered, but also surprised and mildly disturbed that he didn’t recognise the value that this ‘foot in the door’ provided for me. Yes, the reception role was not what I wanted, yes it was a bit boring for a while because I wasn’t learning anything new, but I was able to use it to go above and beyond, and prove to managers in the organisation that I was capable of much, much more.
In “What Colour is Your Parachute”, Richard N. Bolles points out that the methods employers like to use to hire someone are completely opposite to the ways most job seekers go about finding a job. I have adapted his diagram here and you can see that the most preferred method of hiring is to promote someone who you already know from within your organisation. This is what happened to me in the story above.
You’ll also notice that the last two methods, advertising and looking through resumes that you have already received (often unsolicited), is the very last thing they will try, only once the previous methods have not provided them with a suitable candidate.
When I think about the jobs I have had, I only applied for three of them in response to an advertisement. The other seven (which includes the best ones), I got as a result of being known to the organisation already. Not great news from our perspective for Do Good Jobs adverts, but that’s why we really want to promote networking by attending good events and we can’t over state how important this is.
Employers like to hire people they already know and getting your foot in the door is priceless. Don’t underestimate it, especially in these very competitive times. Identify the organisations whose values you identify with and get into them, no matter what the role is. The rest, with some good work from you, will work out from there.