Amy Lindgren's advice for people who want to find a job, or a better job, amounts to one word: Network.
She told Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit that a manager looking to make a hire is like a person buying a car. If possible, both will base the decision on a relationship instead of the description on paper.
"People like to hire people they know and people they like, and it's not as nasty as it sounds," she said. "It's a common-sense thing. Anybody who's ever run a business or been a manager knows that you can train on hard skills, but you cannot change attitude. And so if you know somebody is going to come to work every day or has the right approach or fits in with your small team, you're going to go with that individual if you're empowered to do so. You buy your car from your Uncle Tony even though you know your Uncle Tony never took care of it. Because you know exactly which three things are wrong."
Does an applicant worry about his or her technical skills? Lindgren says, work on relationships. Is a person with a B.A. thinking about getting a Ph.D.? Lindgren says, build a network. Is a pot arrest kicking a guy's application out of the pool? Lindgren says, stop using the application process and get to know the manager.
She also said the guy with the nine-year-old pot arrest — a caller named Jesse, who is trained for a job in tax accountancy — might want to consider relocating. "If you know that there are certain areas where that particular offense is not as difficult to overcome — say, Colorado and Seattle — I would put it on the table," she said.
She also suggested that Jesse might want to start his own accounting firm. But if he doesn't want to move and doesn't want to relocate, she said, "I think you're going to have to go away from all application processes. You won't be able to win that game. Because it's just going to keep coming up, one way or the other. You need to be all but hired before a piece of paper is filled out. And that's going to mean connecting with people directly."
Renee has been working as a mental-health professional with a bachelor's degree, but her hours have been cut and she's unable to make more than she did waiting tables. She's thinking about going back to school for a graduate degree, but Lindgren advised against it. More important than the degree, she said, is Renee's network.
"You need to get more people to be aware of your strengths as a worker in the field, and to be aware of you as a professional at this level," she argued. "In your shoes, I would not go back for a Ph.D. ... because your future employment is going to be based more on your professional colleagues and network, which you can't build until you're actually feet on the ground in the field."
And for everyone, although she acknowledged the need to be on the LinkedIn social network, Lindgren suggested keeping online job-searching to a minimum.
"There's a range of activity you can do," she said, "and for me, the far end of the useless range is most activity online related to posted jobs. If I can, I keep people from doing it at all, but if I can't, I ask them to limit it to 20 percent. ... There's no point in it. The number of hours you put into every process online, you could have had 10 conversations offline. What's the point of that? It's people who know you who are going to hire you; you not going to get known online. The whole thing strikes me as a way of keeping a lot of people busy while the rest of the people get jobs."
"People hire people they like," she said. "They like people they know. They can't know you through the Internet."