An innovative approach to finding and filling jobs, with a genesis here in northeast Wisconsin
Story by Lee Reinsch
Networking: That’s a synonym for glad-handing, back-slapping, rubbing shoulders, butt kissing and schmoozing, right?
GEE. SOUNDS FUN.
“Business professionals hear that word every day – we’re supposed to network at the chamber after hours events, go to workshops, go to parties, join the Rotary Club,” said Christopher Jossart, co-author with fellow Fox Cities resident Chris Czarnik of a new book on the topic.
Jobseekers, especially, get inundated with the word ‘networking.’ The old “it’s not what you know but who you know” adage gets thrown around at practically every – er – networking event under the sun.
“People tend to believe that if only the right person discovers them, they’ll throw their arms around them and say, ‘You’re just who we’ve been looking for; you can start Monday at $90,000 a year with stock options, company car, benefits and four weeks of paid vacation,’” Czarnik said.
He calls that the Disney ending, and it’s about as likely to happen as a pumpkin turning into a horse-drawn carriage.
“The Human Search Engine: It’s what you think you know about a job search that keeps you unemployed” is being used as a textbook by Fox Valley Technical College’s Job Seekers Network and the career-search arm of the University of Wisconsin-Madison athletic department.
Human Search Engine is Czarnik’s name for his method of job searching that he said saves money and headaches for both employer and job seeker. He teaches it through the FVTC Job Seekers Network program, which he heads.
So far, more than 700 people in Job Seekers Network have landed jobs using his methods, he said.
So what is the Human Search Engine?
JOSSART, WHO IS community relations manager at FVTC, describes HSE as “a very manageable, step-by-step, fail-safe, scripted form of networking for people to get to where they need to be.”
Jobseekers find people who are in their chosen field and, through them, link up with other people tier by tier until they find a connection to someone in a hiring capacity.
“He (Czarnik) doesn’t teach jobseekers to network by going right to the hiring manager and saying ‘I am the greatest, most skilled worker you will ever find,’” Jossart said.
Instead, they mobilize connections that have developed as part of the process, and then these friends and colleagues speak for them. That opens doors to networking meetings and informational interviews, according to Jossart.
“This process gets job seekers in front of HR people through strategic referrals,” he said. “There’s never a ‘stranger-meets-stranger’ element to this search.”
Michael Johnson, manager of application development at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. in Neenah, found his current position with the help of Czarnik’s class. He said his job didn’t exist before he talked to the person who eventually hired him.
“I’ve never encountered anything like this before,” Johnson said. “It’s very elementary after the fact; once you get a job you say ‘Oh my God, I got this job by talking to people, through somebody who knew somebody, and I just didn’t know how to get to them. Why didn’t I think of this?’”
Johnson said many people make job seeking too difficult.
“Before this, I thought jobs had to be posted in order to be available,” Johnson said. “For me, there was no job; my job was created based on my conversation with my (current) boss.”
Patient, sell thyself
JOHN MORGAN, NATIONAL SALES brand manager for Midwest Specialty Products in Winneconne, went through Job Seekers Network when he lost a job four years ago. As a salesperson, he’s a natural networker.
“I was networking with people and didn’t realize it,” Morgan said.
But Job Seekers Network taught him to hone the activity into a tool that served a purpose: selling himself.
“Rather than going to a cocktail party or some other function to hobnob, you’ve got to have a 30-second elevator speech: ‘This is who I am, this is what I do, this is what I am looking for,’” Morgan said. “This way it helps you get your point across so much more quickly than just idle conversation at a cocktail party.”
Czarnik teaches Job Seekers Network participants how to market themselves.
“A lot of people don’t have any experience with marketing; they come from engineering or other disciplines,” Morgan said.
One way Czarnik keeps the pressure off participants is to frame the class exercises as a research project rather than networking and other torture.
“He gives the job seeker a plan of what they are supposed to do every morning at 8 a.m., not what others teach, which is throw your resume out there at classified ads,” Jossart said.
But his class isn’t for the weak. Czarnik is known for his animated, in-your-face style.
“He shows no mercy,” Morgan said. “It’s like a kick in the butt, which is what you need.”
From the other side of the desk
HIRING SOMEONE CAN BE a drawn-out and expensive process for any employer. You have your time, the human resource person’s time, training time, not to mention the time the new employee takes from other employees with questions. There’s also the handing out of pass codes, going over employee manuals and safety videos, and filling out insurance documents and benefit information.
Hiring can be a costly decision.
Jossart calculates that if an employee earning $50,000 a year including benefits remains on board over the course of a decade, that decision to hire them amounts to at least a $500,000 commitment.
Which is why resumes are pretty much worthless.
“Why would you make a half a million-dollar decision based on what somebody put on a piece of paper?” Jossart said.
Hiring managers are looking for talent, but Czarnik said that if you ask them, they’ll say, ‘Listen, we know there’s talent out there,’ but they will also say that the traditional process of posting a job and getting 100 resumes is not the way to find it.
“Out of 100, 75 won’t be qualified and of the remaining 25, who knows if they’re really who they say they are?” Czarnik said.
Jossart calls interviewing “one stranger trying to impress another stranger.”
“The job seeker has no real credibility; it’s a shot in the dark” as to whether they get hired, Jossart said.
Many job hunters believe they’ll fare better if they phone companies rather than send out resumes.
“If they’re lucky after playing phone tag for a week or two to finally connect, what makes them more credible than any other job seeker?” Jossart said.
Selling change, changing selling
CZARNIK HAS BEEN WORKING with the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department since 2009, helping its student-athletes transition into the next phase of their lives after college.
“Chris does an excellent job speaking to our first year student-athletes and our upper class student-athletes about career development,” says Bridget Woodruff, director of Student-Athlete Development for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“His lectures on major exploration, networking, and interviewing are engaging and powerful.”
He thoroughly believes high school and college students should be taught job-seeking skills in school.
“What I am teaching is what the really big executive career search firms are teaching, the stuff recruiters are holding close to the vest so they can charge $5,000 to learn it,” Czarnik said.
He should know: He once forked over $4,250 to a slick headhunting firm that promised VIP access to unadvertised, executive-level jobs: open positions hidden from the ordinary Joe.
But it felt to him more like a bait-and-switch job than a job-placement firm.
“It ended up being a training program, which was a shock to me; I thought it was a recruiter and I thought they had all these great jobs waiting for you,” Czarnik said, adding that he was pretty mad. “I was promised an executive-level job and here I was, (being) trained to find one.”
Some elements of the pricey program were valuable, though, and those now play a part in his Human Search Engine formula. One difference is the price. FVTC’s Job Seekers Network program (www.fvtc.edu/jsn) is free of charge and involves no tuition or other cost. Enrollment is open to anyone, and new participants can start at any time by just showing up at one of the meetings.
“A lot of people are like ‘Well, where is the profit for the college?’ and I say it’s in helping the community when the community needs it. It is a thank-you from the college to the community for supporting the college all these years,” Czarnik said.
Jossart said the real-life results he saw Czarnik achieve propelled him to take on the book project.
“He was changing life after life in terms of helping people find another career,” Jossart said.
Lee Reinsch writes and edits from Green Bay.