Tech & Work

The best job hunting: It's who you know

Looking for a new job but don't want to spend eons learning how to conduct a successful search? You may want to read some advice from Harvard.

It’s a boom time in the IT world, and that means if you're in a job that isn’t making you happy, it may be time to look around.
  • A 1998 survey of CIOs by Forrester Research indicates that 85 percent of those polled feel they will have trouble filling vacancies.
  • Microsoft says there will be a shortage of 760,000 IT positions this year with 1.2 million jobs going unfilled by 2003.

And if you’re going after that dream job, your impressive resume, list of certs, and interviewing skills might not matter. Seventy percent of the time, landing the job you want will happen because of “who you know.” That’s the estimate author Robert S. Gardella makes in The Harvard Business School Guide to Finding Your Next Job. In this easy-to-read book, Gardella provides how-to instructions that will teach you how to network effectively.

The Harvard Business School Guide to Finding your Next Job
By Robert S. Gardella
143 pages, softcover
ISBN: 1-57851-223-9
Price: $19.95 or $15.95 with the TechRepublic discount through Fatbrain.
Get a little help
“Networking is building relationships, asking for information or help, and looking for ways to provide value to the other person,” Gardella said, defining networking for job seekers.

He then provides details on:
  • Starting a network.
  • Getting out and contacting people, including who, where, and how.
  • Keeping track of your networking contacts.

He also supplies a list of helpful hints and tools, including ways to add value for your contacts.

Gardella describes networking as being both vertical and horizontal in nature.

The vertical element begins with family and friends at the base. Contacting someone this group recommends will take you to another level; referrals from this second level will take you to a third, and so on.

Horizontal networking means expanding that family and friend base to include former or fellow co-workers and other people you know. You can then build vertically from there.

That’s about as theoretical as the book gets, however, opting more often for practical, hands-on advice. Unlike other books of the genre, Gardella assumes you already know what you want to do. If you are undecided about it, he refers you to other resources, such as the book What Color is My Parachute by Richard Bolles.

Gardella is the assistant director of Alumni Career Services for the Harvard Business School, and he has worked for years as a consultant, trainer, and career and job search counselor. Guide to Finding Your Next Job began as handouts and tip lists associated with his career.

With its how-to organizational scheme, the information in the book is clear and easy to read. The author uses bold type to present a salient idea, with lighter type for supporting details, such as lists or other recommendations associated with the idea. This allows readers to skip areas that aren't applicable to their situation.

The book also includes information you would expect in any job-hunting text. There are chapters on references, resumes, and planning and executing a job search strategy, as well as special topics such as combating age discrimination, interviewing, and negotiating job offers.

The verdict
The Harvard Business School Guide to Finding Your Next Job can be read from cover to cover in one sitting, but it is filled with so many good ideas and strategies that the reader will want to return to pertinent sections over again.

Topics that Gardella thinks are especially important receive the most detailed treatment. For example, the networking section—which he describes as a key skill to learn—is quite thorough. The same is true of the chapter devoted to resumes, which Gardella describes as the longest and most detailed because it is so necessary.

The simplicity that makes this book so strong and directed could be argued to be its weakest element. Gardella doesn't try to provide every possible strategy. For instance, he doesn't go into any detail about the many different ways a resume can be constructed. As we mentioned earlier, Gardella’s book will be little help to those who don’t know what they want to do with their professional lives.

Even so, he makes no pretence of his book being the ultimate compendium for job seekers. When issues arise that are tangential to his discussion, Gardella provides a reading list of other publications where that information can be found.

Finding a new job is a learning process filled with trial and error. This book shortens that learning curve while providing direction and practical advice.
Do you think you’ve come across the ultimate job-hunting guide for IT professionals? Are there special issues IT professionals face that never seem to be covered in any book? Post a note below or send us your comments.

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