Leveraging Transactive Memory in Your Job Search

Now, more than ever, with unemployment at near-record levels in the U.S. and people scrambling to find meaningful job opportunities, networking is critical.  Recently, I had the chance to visit with Cameron Piercy, who teaches Communication at the University of Kansas.  His excellent research study, written in collaboration with Yaguang Zhu, “Transactive Memory and the Job Search:  Finding Expertise and Influence in Socio-Technical Networks,” offers insight into ways that job seekers should leverage their networks to achieve hiring success.

First thing’s first:  I wondered what is “transactive memory?”  The way that Dr. Piercy described it to me was knowing who knows what and who knows who.  It’s about being aware of where resources are stored and understanding how to put them to use.  Furthermore, it is important to recognize that how people think of their networks shapes the way they interact with their networks.  By considering who you have access to and what information they may have access to, we can tap the most valuable resources and expect to have more success in advancing our goals.

The other important point that Dr. Piercy made is that the “layering” of resources is important in a job search.  He says that this is all about cultivating your relationships – strong and weak, virtual and face-to-face, person-to-person and digital – in order to combine your knowledge of and access to a broad variety of social, formal and technological resources to obtain jobs. 

So, considering both transactive memory (who knows who and who knows what) with layering (cultivating relationships), job seekers should do the following:

  1. Identify your strong connections (e.g. family, friends, current and former colleagues, mentors, champions, et al).  Engage them in your search.  Ask them who you should connect with during this time;
  2. Tap weak ties or connections with people we don’t know well, but who we might be able to reach out to in order to fill in the gaps in our access to information.  Even though social distancing is limiting the number of people we are accidentally running into during normal, daily life people are still accessible via email, Zoom, texts, or social media.  Don’t just ask these folks for help, ask who they might know who might help you find a position;
  3. Utilize technology and online resources (e.g. websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, CareerBuilder, ZipRecruiter, et al).  Many of these websites offer in-depth information, like a review or interview questions, from hundreds if not thousands of strangers. Your active participation and engagement with career sites, job boards, social media and other digital tools, offers you knowledge of what is happening in the market and what opportunities are available; and
  4. Leverage formal mechanisms for finding jobs such as career and job fairs, career counseling services to round out your search.

Happy Networking!

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