I have learned a lot from talking to dozens of people who have made or are looking to reinvent through a change of profession. Some of these folks have chosen the path of entrepreneurship, but about half have merely pivoted into a different career. Some still withdrew from the reinvention process and merely sought to find another job — “any job” — so that they could pay their bills and not have to endure the arduous reinvention path they were on.

For anyone who has been out of the job market for more than 10 years, however, entering again has been a complete shock. Nearly nothing is any longer the same as it was in 2006, and job hunting in 2006 was absolutely nothing like job hunting in 1996. I hear this over and over again. The main difference? The advent of the Internet, which changed everything. Some would say that the resulting consequence favors no one…except the recruiters. But there’s a wildcard you may not be playing, and you should be. Let’s examine how we got here and share that wildcard with you.

help-wanted-ad-torn-out-of-a-newspaperNewspaper Classifieds – In the decades before the Internet, the most common way people would find a new job would be the scour their local newspaper help wanted ads — “the classifieds” — to find openings in their area. The candidate would typically either postal mail their resume into the listed address or call the listed telephone number to speak to the employer’s candidate screener. Oftentimes, if you didn’t get a call about the job for which you applied, you’d get some kind of generic rejection letter in the mail; sometimes you could even speak to the hiring agent and find out why you weren’t qualified or why someone else was chosen over you.

Then along came the Internet, which began changing how job openings were posted and found. It was a slow change at first because of the user adoption curve. Though job listing websites came along, the majority of Americans were either not yet online, not yet comfortable using the Internet, or had such poor or slow connections that using the Internet for something like a job search was still a painful, and therefore unnecessary, process.

CareerBuilderThe first mainstream job listings website, CareerBuilder (originally named NetStart), was founded in 1995 but didn’t launch until 1998. Primarily an index of searchable job openings, a “job board” — like a web-enabled version of newspaper help wanted classifieds — by 2000 it had also launched its Resume Database, so that users could upload their resumes and be found by seeking employers.

MonsterMonster.com, launched in 1999, was created from the merger of two pre-existing job listing websites. Monster.com quickly grew into a viable competitor to CareerBuilder. With more places for employers to post jobs and job seekers to find job openings, by the early 2000s, online job searching became more the norm than newspaper classifieds, and the tide started to shift.

IndeedPerhaps smelling the potential, in 2004 the employment search engine, Indeed, launched. Indeed is an aggregator, grabbing job listings “from thousands of websites, including job boards, staffing firms, associations, and company career pages” (Wikipedia) and making these listings easily searchable for the user. This kind of niche search engine, known as a “meta-engine,” brought job listings all into one single place. With all the user traffic it attracted, by 2010 it had surpassed Monster.com as the second largest job site, and after 2011 when it created the means for job seekers to apply directly to jobs on Indeed’s site and offering its own resume database, Indeed surpassed CareerBuilder as the Number One online job site.

LinkedIn didn’t start out as a job site. It was conceived of and launched in 2003 as a social network site for business professionals. By 2005, however, it launched Find Jobs, enabling its members to search for job postings. Though this feature has existed for more than 10 years now, most people used LinkedIn primarily as a networking tool until about 2013-14, when LinkedIn really amped-up its algorithms for both job seekers and those on the hiring side of the equation:  employers and recruiters.

The Changed Equation

So what did all of this digital reach do to the job searching/job filling equation? To begin with, as the job site user adoption curve increased, so too did the volume of response fielded by employers. Newspaper job listings became a thing of the past. Now, for any single job posted online, instead of getting dozens or perhaps hundreds of responses, there might now be thousands, particularly after all the job cuts made as a result of the Great Recession. For the employer, sifting through thousands of resumes became a daunting — if not impossible — task, and responding to every applicant with a rejection letter (or email), let alone a phone call to explain to a respondent why he didn’t get the job became a relic behavior of days gone by. Of course, it is this big vacuum of not knowing — the notion that you might be sending in dozens of resumes daily and never getting a single call back — that completely demoralizes active job seekers. It’s a sad but true reality that many people are having a hard time adjusting to.

Data collection and dissemination changed, too. Whereas initially job applications completed online were merely on-site form inputs emailed to the employer, it soon became evident that more sophisticated tools would be needed to manage the volume and vetting process. Today, there are a wide variety of software solutions that collect, process, manage, and output to the employers all of the data inputs that job seekers fill in. These software tools are programmed to look for certain elements an ideal candidate should have — skills, years of experience, job titles — all of which are merely words on a resume page, and compute whether or not that candidate is qualified for the job enough to be contacted for a first-round interview. And because many of these software solutions also allow candidates to skip uploading a resume and just connect to a LinkedIn profile, this means that if you’re a job seeker, your LinkedIn profile — and the keywords it contains — is even more important than ever before.

Let me pause here for a moment and ask how many of you reading this think that your LinkedIn profile is ideally optimized to get you past this first-line computer software algorithm vetting process?

Enter the Recruiter

With all this technology now acting as a gatekeeper between those seeking jobs and those hiring for them, not to mention the now global competition for any single job, the job seeker is more disadvantaged than ever. And yet, I can’t help but wonder if candidates sourced by computer algorithms deliver the best or most qualified candidates to the employers either? If the candidates themselves start their submission process with an under-descriptive resume and LinkedIn profile, they may be the most qualified candidate that the employer never finds. Would the employer ever know? And how can they hedge against this?

Enter the Recruiter.

Business interviewIf it seems to you like more and more people are entering the recruiting business, you’re probably right. Recruiters have become the antidote to the reliance on computer algorithms to find the right candidate in a voluminous sea of candidates. Recruiters might be retained by an employer to find a qualified candidate (these companies are often called “search firms”) or they may be paid on a commission basis for candidates they find. Whereas it was once tedious to find out if a company was hiring, the transparency of job postings brought about by the Internet now means just about anyone can see that a job is open, find a qualified candidate, recruit that candidate to bring him into an employer as a prospect for hire, and get paid for doing so. So recruiters have an incentive to find, speak to, catalog, and keep track of people who might be able to fill a currently or future open position. The risk to the employer is low because the recruiter does the heavy lifting of the front-line candidate screening. A good recruiter can also suss out things about the candidate that may not appear anywhere on his resume or profile but which makes him a great candidate for the job. Plus, recruiters can utilize and add to their arsenal the same software the employers do, including LinkedIn Recruiter, which, according to wired, starts at only $8,000. That’s not a bad ROI for the average corporate recruiter who makes $55,193 per year, details PayScale.

Cozy up…to more than just recruiters

If there’s a lesson to be taken from this post, it’s that if you ever think you’re going to want to reinvent to a new job, you want recruiters as your friends, both literally and as LinkedIn connections. They can be one of your best advocates when you’re gunning for that new job — the one you’ve got no job experience for but which you’re extremely qualified and competent to tackle. They’re the voice with the hiring manager that you don’t have. They’re the bug in their ear that you can’t plant. Recruiters are taking advantage of the times. Heck, maybe you event want to reinvent into a recruiter!

But the best secret weapon of all, the wildcard that most people don’t know about or work hard enough at, the one that’s the most reliable way to find a job? Work your network. Why is that you ask? Because

85% of all jobs are filled by networking!

According to research conducted by industry consultant Lou Adler and summarized in his must-read post, even the most active job seekers find their next job by networking, not by using job sites. And the people who aren’t even really actively looking for a new job find their next new job through networking by even greater margins than active job seekers. This means that employers are finding candidates to fill jobs before those jobs even ever get posted (or, by the time those jobs are posted, it’s really just a formality the company has to do because the job is really already filled by their identified candidate)!

Uncomfortable with the idea of networking? Embrace that discomfort and push through it! That’s what the entire reinvention journey is going to be about anyway, so you might as well get used to it!

Ready to explore the idea of reinventing your career? Consider attending our “Exploring Reinvention:  Preparing to Deliberately Change Your Career, Your Business, or Your Life” event on Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 live event. Click here to learn more about it.