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For Help Finding a Job, Friends in Low Places

By Hannah Seligson

December 3, 2008

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For members of Generation Y, the top-down approach to networking is being replaced by a bottoms-up approach that relies on peers rather than superiors for job leads and introductions. Instead of asking total strangers for networking leads, these young workers would rather reconnect with people they know from high school and college. As a result, tactics like reading the classified ads, joining an industry-specific networking group or applying through a company’s Web site are falling out of favor. Instead, today’s generation of workers are focused on making connections through lateral networks of friends and friends of those friends.

Tamara Erickson, a researcher on generational differences in the workplace, found that more workers in Generation Y are using a bottoms-up approach to job searching. In contrast to the Boomer generation, members of Generation Y prefer more of a peer-infiltration approach. While peer-to-peer networking can happen informally over e-mail and on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, it is also taking place in invite-only networking groups. For people searching for work against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the peer network can offer access to people of similar age with knowledge of new openings.

While that might be true, there are potential drawbacks to relying on a peer network, says Nadira Hira, a writer at Fortune who covers Generation Y. While peers might refer you to a job, they may not be having substantive conversations about how to package yourself in a way that makes sense for the position. Hira recommends building relationships with your peer network that go beyond social networks. This is especially true for young women, who are growing increasingly comfortable with lateral networking in the workplace.

From The New York Times
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