From Willliam Carroll, Jr., the former chair of the board of director of ACS, a very interesting comment on the power of networking in this week's C&EN. It riffs off a recent New York Times article where they reveal that some companies (Ernst and Young, Deloitte) rely on internal referrals for (respectively) 45% and 49% of their non-entry-level placements. This is where Dr. Carroll loses me:
In some ways, this process is disturbing. You may wonder, “Do I really need to know somebody to get a job? What happened to merit?” Although disturbing, it’s also understandable. Deloitte receives 400,000 résumés per year. If a résumé gets just seven seconds of attention, human prescreening of that many résumés would take more than 100 person-days per year. It’s simpler, cheaper, and more reliable to sort by keyword and get referrals.
Diversity is an issue, however. Companies recognize that people tend to recommend people like themselves. That’s one reason why many limit the percentage of people hired via referrals and recruit entry-level personnel differently...
So why am I telling you another disturbing story about jobs? Because there’s a take-home lesson: A network is even more important than we thought it was.
I preach the network to groups of grad students and postdocs. I say to them, “Do you know everyone here? Turns out, most of you will have successful careers—some of you will be in C&EN. Here’s a chance to meet stars early, become colleagues, and later brag that you knew them when. Imagine how far you’ll go with each other’s network.”Dr. Carroll then points out that networking is something he believes is a core function of the American Chemical Society, there are 163,000 members on the ACS Network*, that ACS local sections are a great place to get to know people and get involved and fdafguyfdsfereruirere -- sorry, I fell asleep.
In one sense, I think that Dr. Carroll is right. Networking is more important than ever, and it is very important that your network knows when you are looking for a new position and how best to help move you forward in your career goals. It is important to get to know influential people, work for them and to make a good impression on them.
That said, shouldn't someone push back against all of this networking mumbo-jumbo? Aren't there legitimate questions of merit to be discussed about These Modern Times and our approach to hiring at all levels? I confess that I really dislike the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know", especially as applied to success in the job market. Does any of Dr. Carroll's comment go against that terrible phrase?
Instead of another paean to "networking", I would like to see people of Dr. Carroll's stature indicate what technical skills and character traits that employers most like to see. We all know that some people have "it" -- what exactly are those traits, and how can we grow them in ourselves? Wouldn't that be a better thing to spend column inches talking about, rather than another suggestion that you "get to know people"?
*Isn't it time that we declare the ACS Network a failed experiment? How many active users are there on the ACS Network? Does it even reach 1% of membership? In 2008, it was cool to establish new online social networks. It's not 2008 anymore.