by Ilana Gershon
Job Advice I Was Surprised to Find in the 1920s
In 1917, employers were paying for employee referrals – I had no idea that this practice has been so longstanding. (Baer 1917).
As early as 1921, Kilduff in his job advice manual was strongly encouraging job-seekers to contact the hiring manager directly whenever possible, and circumvent the employment personnel bureau – which is what HR was called in those days. People have been trying to get around HR since 1921!
While every job advice manual I have ever read recommends some form of networking (although the earliest mention of “networking” as a verb I can find is in 1977), this practice wasn’t very highly valued in the 1920s. In 1921, Norman Shidle warns prospective job-seekers not to rely too heavily on their personal connections. “The help of friends and relatives should not be ignored when you begin to seek a position, but such persons should not be relied upon as the main source of a job.” (Shidle 1921: 4) He is concerned that depending only on one’s social network will lead people to take the job that is most conveniently available, and not the one best suited to their temperament.
Baer, A. K. 1917. “How We Lifted Hiring Out of the Rut.” In Handling Men. New York: A. W. Shaw Company: 9-12.
Granovetter, Mark. Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.
Kilduff, Edward. 1921. How to Choose and Get a Better Job. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers.
Shidle, Norman. 1922. Finding your job: sound and practical business methods. New York: The Ronald Press Company.