BrainWave Consulting Company, LLC is a minority-owned, veteran-owned business that specializes in providing cybersecurity and other technology services to small and medium enterprises (SMB/SME).

Earlier this week, I read an article about unemployment and the struggles of those coming out of college and graduate school who are seeking jobs. A surprising number of people were simply spouting the rhetoric that people who don’t have jobs are simply lazy and feeling entitled. May God have mercy on those who posted, such that they never have to be out of work in this economy.  The whole planet is not divided into Lazy and Successful.  At least some of the people who are successful (or deemed so by society) are quite lazy, and some of the hardest working people are unfortunately destitute, or at the very least, currently jobless.

Job hunting is a complex beast.  This is true in general, but even more so in recent years.  To be successful, every job hunter needs to have good relationships with recruiters, potential employers, and people of influence.

This is a different way of saying, “It’s who you know AND who knows you.”

The phrase above tends to invoke thoughts of cronyism and favoritism, but the fact is that people prefer to deal with people that they know and/or trust when it comes to business.  No matter how you say it, what it all boils down to is this: if you want to have a chance in the job market of the 21st century, you will need to focus as much energy on your relationships with people as on how much skill you have to complete tasks and projects.

I read an interesting article on the CNN Money website this week about the “age of the freelancer”, and it mirrors what I’ve been thinking for some time. I expect that there will be more people working for themselves in the coming years just because of how volatile the economy is, and the relative lack of security in employment.  What I found most interesting, however, were the comments on the website bashing self-employment.  In the history of mankind, the balance of time has favored people being self-employed rather than working for someone else.  Only in recent decades has this balance shifted, and while it might have started out rather favorably for all concerned, it really hasn’t favored the employee that much in the past decade or so.

Freelancing, consulting and other forms of self-employment are well recommended in these times. No, they’re not for everyone, but neither is corporate employment.  But, even if one goes down the now traditional employment route, it is vital that one make use of one’s professional network. Employees and candidates need to have just as vibrant and active a professional network as do consultants and small business owners.  And a good network takes some time to build up.

Job hunters will need to make good use of social media, adequately maintain a consistent social profile, and use all channels to connect to potential employers, in addition to their use of the traditional job hunting tools.  They need to make it their business to talk to good recruiters, and work with resume coaches that understand social media, so they can take advantage of the channels that employers are using for their job searches.

While hard work doesn’t guarantee success, a failure to pursue every viable angle to get your name in front of prospective employers will almost certainly guarantee failure.  Job hunters need to think and present their value in terms of what the employer needs to move ahead.  That is not to say that employees should be wiling to do anything without regard for their own goals, but how those goals are presented and expressed needs to be carefully considered.

For instance, asking “What are the ways that you like to be able to reach your staff off-hours?” is a much better way of determining how the expectations for off-hours work might be than asking, “Will I need to be on call regular?” or “What are the average hours you put in each week?”

Likewise, “How long has the core team been together, and what sort of projects have they completed?” is a better question than “What’s the turnover rate, and why do people leave?” That’s not to suggest that you don’t need to know this information, but that you want to approach the information gathering in a way that doesn’t expose anything an employer might choose to interpret as a red flag.

If you’re in school right now, you should be looking for potential internships and building relationships with professors and other school personnel that will be able to connect you to employer and potential employers.  And please, please, please, start straightening out your social media profiles!  Seriously. Things don’t go away on the Internet – especially not these days – and you need to control your digital presence because employees will be looking at it and making decisions based upon it, regardless of the legal landscape.

If you’re already on the job market, then you would be well advised to seek out a career coach who is also adept with social media, and get to work.  Blindly shooting out resumes is not nearly as rewarding as you think (as you may have already found out). Social media isn’t a panacea – it’s another tool to help you build and manage useful relationships.

And relationships are ultimately the thing that help you get jobs – whether as a consultant or as a employee.