Updated: Mar 30
I first published this piece on LinkedIn on September 6, 2019.
I was friends with a dude who worked at Sanderson [our college's gym]. I talked to him every time I went there. I knew folks who worked at Mitchell Memorial Library. I used to spend so much time there that I even referred my car insurance to a few of them. I was friends with Ms. Kim, who worked in the office of College of Business. When I was about to default on my rent, she gave me $40. Later, she also asked me to tutor her nephew. I was friends with a girl who worked at Barnes and Noble all the way back in my first semester.
I was told only about resumes and interviews. How could have I asked them to get me a job? Throughout my college career, I didn't even know employee referral was a thing. I hadn't befriended them to use them to get to places anyway. Except for the College of Business, I had applied to work at all the above places. I was turned down everywhere. My friends didn't even know that I had applied. The truth is I did not find out about it until I became active on LinkedIn, a year and a half after graduation. John Marty, Liz Ryan, and Kirsty Bonner opened my eyes.
Yes, I knew people at CSpire when I applied. I was clueless they could do anything. I never attempted to know people to ask for referrals [It feels quite pathetic anyway]. I did not know what I did not know. That was a blindspot. I admit that I had smelt it but couldn't believe it. [Why would someone hire sub-par candidates just because they were referred].
Somebody from [Mississippi State's] Career Center once said in a class that most jobs are found via networking because they are not posted online. But I didn't guess they were filled that way, too. A friend told me to go find work at Dogwood [a residence hall], but folks there told me they did not have anything. I left my resume and never heard back.
Yes, you guessed it right. I remained perpetually unemployed and poor to the point that in 3 and a half years, I starved twice and was homeless once. All the money I earned came from part-time work, selling things, and referring products. I found some jobs but could not keep them as a foreigner in the US.
Every time I went to the Career Center, they had nothing to say besides "go see Ms. Kelly". Ms. Kelly would review my resume and ask me to tailor it specifically to every job [sounds like slavery, honestly]. Not once did she ever mention ATS and employee referrals. She made me think that I needed to work on myself and craft a better resume. [She gaslit me.]
I beat myself thinking that I should have found out about referrals earlier. Well, given my extremely high rate of rejection from way back in school, getting rejected only seemed natural. I didn't know there was such a thing as ATS. I did not look up "are online applications a waste of time?" To look that up, I had to have doubts, which I did not. I practiced an extreme version of "no one owes me shit". An independent private firm has all the freedom to turn me down for whatever reason.
Now that I know it, the referral system is despicable. It incentivizes people to be your friend so they can use you later. When I have my firm, employees would be welcome to refer, but referred candidates wouldn't be unfairly preferred.
The referral system breaks the higher law-- meritocracy. If you are tired of fake friends, if you are tired of people using you to get things, support meritocracy and oppose the referral system. Also, consider the psychological place you are in when you realize that you have a job because you knew someone, not because you worked your butt off to get it. Don't be surprised if you have imposter syndrome. You are an imposter. I think of a rich kid's struggle, who got everything without the grind. He soon realizes he needs the grind more than the things. Hard work and struggle make success fruitful. The referral system is bound to spiritually degrade society.
I recommend you avoid all workplaces that hire via contacts. The atmosphere is bound to be toxic. Avoid all workplaces that engage in shady hiring practices. We need a moral boycott to cleanse society.