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When looking for a job, it certainly is wise to cover all bases – from checking online job boards to inquiring at companies of interest to asking everyone you know to keep an eye out for an appropriate opening. Many times, however, jobs do not make it to the posting stage. Instead, they are filled by candidates the company already knows are qualified.
“One of the best ways to access unadvertised jobs is to ‘get in’ before the employer even knows he or she is ready to hire,” says Dave Gowel, CEO of the software company RockTech and author of The Power in a Link, a newly released book on how to use LinkedIn to grow your business or secure a job. “This way, when the need is established for new talent, you’ll be front of mind and get an interview before your competition knows the job exists.”
What can you do at this moment to gain access to your industry’s hidden job market? Consider the following:
Don’t Need A Job
“Sounds ironic, but it is the best way to pierce through the backdoor of opportunities,” says Darrell W. Gurney, a career coach and author of Never Apply for a Job Again: Break the Rules, Cut the Line, Beat the Rest. “If you’re out there like everyone else, pounding on doors and floors that you need, need, need a job, you’ll meet way less people. People shy away from need — not because they don’t want to help, but because they don’t know if they can help. People want to win, not lose. So, if they aren’t sure they can ‘win’ (give you leads, give you a job), they’ll stay away.”
Instead, Gurney suggests approaching people in a way that sets the stage for “winning” by:
“Not only do you gain an enormous amount of knowledge from which to make your career choices moving forward,” he adds, “But you create contacts and relationships that, if mined and maintained properly, can be the avenues through which you make stealth moves into positions or even completely different fields.”
Focus Your Efforts
“In the hidden job market, managers heavily rely on their informal network in recruiting their next hire,” says Duncan Mathison, a career consultant and co-author of Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times are Tough. “This informal network includes the manager’s professional peers both inside and outside of the organization, but it also includes the people who work most closely to the open position. Smart job seekers understand this and use this knowledge to focus their networking.”
Mathison notes that, unfortunately, most job seekers are very random in their networking or network only with other job seekers. Instead of just hoping to bump into the right people, job seekers need to know who they are looking for and how to get the most out of networking meetings. To be more effective, Mathison recommends these three things:
Identify the network “cluster” around your target position. Every position has a group of people that surround it. This ‘cluster’ of people and positions want to influence who will get hired. Why? Because their jobs and their success depend in part on the quality of the new hire. Every job hunter should know the typical job titles of the positions around their target. Write up a list of these positions along with another list of employers you are targeting in your search. Show these two lists to the people in your network. Ask them if they might know anybody who would know the people in the targeted cluster of positions you could talk to about possible open positions or possibly obtain an introduction to a hiring manager.
Get to know the experts in your field. Every profession has its experts. They are the consultants, authors, researchers, regulators, professors and retired pros who have a deep interest in the best practices, best organizations, the latest research, and the leaders in your industry. Smart job seekers connect with the experts because the experts often have deep and broad professional networks and they know what is ‘hot’ in your profession. Find them at the local university, professional conferences, associations, or government agencies.
Dramatically improve the quality of your networking meetings. Challenge yourself to up your networking game. After each meeting, think about what worked and what did not work. Did you use an agenda to guide the discussion? Did you have a target employer list for your contact to look at and help you brainstorm ideas and additional contacts? Were you able to clearly articulate your job search objective?
Make An Impression
Once you have made a commitment to seeking out targeted relationships and genuine information, look for venues where you can connect. You may find that it is actually easier to approach someone at a conference or introduce yourself to people on LinkedIn when you don’t feel like the first words out of your mouth need to be “Do you know of any jobs?” Volunteer at places where you can meet people who share a common goal, or try doing temp work at companies of interest. Then, dazzle them with your hard work and commitment.
One last idea is to demonstrate your potential value to prospective employers: Show them what they are missing. “If you are a consultant or provider of a specific service and you are looking for a job, provide a little of your craft for free,” Gowel suggests. “For example, if you are a graphic designer seeking employment, impress a would-be client with a graphic sample for one of the needs you may have discussed. Everyone loves something for free, and you are demonstrating your abilities without a financial commitment from the other party. Next time there’s a full-time job available for a graphic designer, you just might be poised for a new position.”