A couple of weeks ago I offered to provide coaching to a young man looking for his first career job after earning two difficult degrees from two top-notch universities. We’ll call this gentleman Mark. We’ve met a few times and will meet a few more before he lands that job. So far, we’ve revised Mark’s résumé to get the attention of company recruiters and drafted a compelling cover letter. He is updating his LinkedIn profile page with a professional headshot and is double-checking his social media history to ensure his postings support his written contention that he’s an upstanding student and person. Further, we’ve identified ten large brand-name companies to target, and Mark is researching them to identify their Southern California operations, as he is not interested in relocating. Once Mark has those locations, he’ll use LinkedIn to find the names of recruiters at each location with the goal of sending his cover letter and résumé to land an interview. If he can’t find who he’s looking for on LinkedIn, he’ll pick up the phone and call to get their names and titles. In addition, he has taken a personal assessment, using Strengths Finder 2.0, and will write a personal mission statement using the model in “The Path” by Laurie Beth Jones. This young man has a lot to offer an employer but needs the opportunity to prove himself. Some of Mark’s contemporaries seem to think that if they can’t start out as president of the company, they’ll just wait for the call that says a presidency has opened up. To his credit, that’s not Mark; he doesn’t care what his first title is. He would take a janitorial job at one of his target companies, though he’d be highly overqualified. I know that at least one recruiter, and possibly more, will read his letter and résumé, and email or call him for an interview. Someone will see the potential in this young man. As I explained to Mark, in corporate America, everyone is afraid of making a mistake when hiring. Hence the entire process is slow, cumbersome and just plain rude to job seekers. Internal recruiters don’t really want to talk to people; they want you to email your résumé so they can quickly weed applicants out. These same recruiters don’t sit long enough with hiring managers to identify the real qualifications of the open position. Too often, they fail to ask deeper questions to uncover intangibles the hiring manager wants. While recruiters think it is a numbers game, I can assure anyone in the hiring business that it’s far more about quality than quantity. Too many recruiters are too young and green to see quality, whether on a computer screen or piece of paper, or in a conversation. I explained to Mark that getting a job is a process, and the bigger the company, the more complicated that process is. The goal of the cover letter and résumé is to get enough attention to get an interview (probably by phone first, then in person) with the recruiter. During those interviews, the primary goal is to avoid being eliminated; say the right things to get to the interview that matters most – with the hiring manager. We will practice these interviews so he will know what to expect. I told Mark that as he learns and grows at whatever company he goes to work at, he will need to create and nature his own professional network. I’m not talking about a network of recruiters, but one of hiring managers. The goal is to avoid recruiters as much as possible in the future. This networking cannot be done just when someone needs a job. It has to be an ongoing part of a person’s professional career. Mark can do this by becoming active in professional organizations in his industry, by continuing his formal education, by reading journals and research in his field, and by becoming an investor in those companies in his industry that are publically traded. In addition, he will need to try, time permitting, to stay connected and active with his alma maters, particularly in the departments where he earned his degrees. Because at this point Mark lacks experience in his chosen industry, he understands that until he can make a contribution, he’ll be an under-performing asset to his employer. But Mark offers intangibles that make him a less risky hire than other candidates. He wants to earn and not be given a paycheck. He was to be challenged and held accountable for results. He’s proven through his educational career, part-time and summer jobs that he can follow rules, policies and procedures. This translates into having a work ethic, the ability to follow directions, to be part of a team, to treat others well, to complete assignments on time. Mark will find a suitable position soon, of that I am sure. The takeaway for business owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs is that it would be appropriate to review your hiring procedures because they may not be serving your company well. The takeaway for those who are employed is that no job is guaranteed. Having a network is no longer an option, it is mandatory. Just like you learn from others about doctors, dentists, restaurants and movies, you should have the same feedback loop about employment opportunities; you never know when you’ll need to tap into that network. Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at Ken.Keller@StrategicAdvisoryBoards.com. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.