One of the many things that stop us in our job-seeking tracks is the online application process. We submit resume after resume and never seem to hear anything back.

If the Internet isn’t working, then what’s the answer?

The best solution is to reach out to real, live people.

In today’s age, it’s tough to stop by someone’s home unannounced – or even call someone without notice. Therefore, the idea of directly contacting people during the job hunt may sound extreme. After all, every company’s HR representative tells us to apply online. If we’re the “right” fit, they will definitely contact us – at least, that’s what they say.

When we don’t hear back, we assume that means we were, underqualified, undereducated, and/or undervalued. But in reality, it’s entirely possible that we never heard back because no one even saw our stellar resume!

Direct contact can seem scary, but your likelihood of finding career success through other people is much higher than it is through the Internet.

When we shy away from contacting others, it’s often because we don’t want to bother them. We don’t want to be considered “pushy.” We don’t want to be perceived as not following the process.

Furthermore, the best people to reach out to are those in power, such as managers, directors, and executive leaders. On the surface, this can be an especially intimidating group. Surely, they don’t have time for us, right?

But let’s think about it another way. If you’ve ever spent time talking with a high-level executive, you may have noticed something surprising. They are not always the most intelligent people in the room. Don’t get me wrong – they’re smart. But chances are good that they weren’t promoted based on IQ alone. There was some other factor that made them special. What could that be?

RiverWell, for many executives, it was their ability to network.

I remember the first time I interviewed for an executive-level role. I was asked, “Tell us about the people you know in this field. Do you have contacts you might recruit to join our company? Do you know vendors we might hire?”

At that moment, it hit me. I was no longer being considered based on my personal merits alone. It was no longer just about my education and my personal accomplishments. My ability to connect with others and maintain a large network of contacts had just taken center stage.

So, let’s get back to the problem at hand: applying for a job. The people we need to reach out to for help are often the very same people who themselves value networking. And they respect the courage and motivation it takes to track them down and send a friendly note. Very often, when we send an email directly to the hiring manager, we were one of the only candidates to do so.

And at the end of the day, if you don’t have the job, what do you have to lose by reaching out?

A version of this article originally appeared on Memphis Daily News.

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