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How to Tap into The Hidden Job Market

For many, the pandemic was an extremely difficult period, and arguably it was the crash of the job market that hit hardest. But the future is looking up.
Richard Bunkham

Executive Career Coach, Total Career Solutions Ltd

As the end of the pandemic seems to draw near, we are all trying to get our head round heading back to normality. For many, the pandemic was an extremely difficult period, and arguably it was the crash of the job market that hit hardest. But the future is looking up. With life going back to normal, that means that the number of job openings will increase once again, and this time we are going to make sure you’re prepared for it. How will we do? Let us introduce you to the hidden job market. Using the hidden job market is a sure-fire way to open up even more doors for yourself, making it easier than ever to snag the job you’ve been wanting.

What is the Hidden Job Market?

Simply put, the hidden job market is all the job opportunities that are not explicitly advertised. That means you won’t find them on job boards or career websites, and instead they are found through a number of other ways. And these ways are more common that you would expect. In 2021, 35% of people found job openings through friends, whilst 24% found them through professional connections. That is this year alone, but for years people have been using the hidden job market to secure roles that other applicants haven’t even had access to. Want to know how you can tap into it? Here are the many ways you can land a job using the hidden job market.

Utilising Your Connections

As mentioned in the statistics above, the most common way people find jobs using the hidden job market is my using the connections they already have. This includes professional connections with colleagues and old bosses, and personal connections like friends and family. Start off by identifying what roles you would like to do and in what field and see which of your family and friends work in that field or know a person that could help get your foot in the door. Family businesses are a good way of working your way up to a certain position as well, as many people start off in an entry-level position in a family business and quickly work their way up due to their connections.

Remember to friends and family count as connections

If the family and friends route provide limited opportunities, we should consider professional and academic connections we may have. Perhaps an old colleague has moved job and knows the person to contact to get into that company. It is a good idea to search up and ask about networking events in said colleagues’ companies, as this could be a way to make yourself known to the right people. Getting in touch with old managers could also be beneficial as they would be aware of upcoming openings that you could prepare for ahead of time.

Moreover, many people have yet to utilise company referral schemes. This an internal recruitment method where employers set the initiative for existing employees to refer new employees in exchange for benefits such as extra holidays or gifts. Why do employers offer a scheme like this? Well, simply put, everyone can benefit from referrals. The employers can save money and time as they do not have to scout for new employees themselves, and it is very likely that these potential employees will fit into the professional environment well as they are associated with like-minded people. This is a perfect way to get involved in a company where you already have connections as both you and the other person will also benefit from the situation. Much like before, ask family, friends, or old colleagues about potential referral schemes in their respective companies – it is very likely they exist without employees themselves even being aware!

Don't forget your alumni connections

Academically, college alumni networks are a great avenue to use to connect with people from the past. Many universities have alumni pages on their intranet or on LinkedIn and provides easy access to other professionals who you already have something in common with. Reach out to those that catch your eye and ask them about their career and how they got to where they are. You don’t only have to enquire about job openings. It is perfectly fine to simply ask for advice or some direction, as people may not always know about specific jobs, but could out you in contact with someone they know that can take you where you need to go.

However, it is important to find ways to manage you network effectively as not everyone you know will be beneficial in finding professional opportunities. Desperation is not the way to go, and you want to target people who can attest to your character and put in a genuine good word for you. You should also consider the relationship you have with people. It may not be smart to dive straight into asking for a favour when you haven’t connected with someone with a while. Start off small and build the relationship by following them on social media and have a quick catchup through direct message to create that rapport. This can open up the conversation around careers down the line, and you will have the chance to ask for advice or help getting into certain rooms.

Online and Face-to-Face Networking

Networking events are a guaranteed way to build your professional connections as everyone is there for the same reasons – to network! Once restrictions are lifted, look up networking events in your area for the field you are interested in and prepare in advance. You don’t want to go to these places without a game plan, so go there keen and with a bit of prep. Establish what you want to gain from the event; maybe you want to just get your name out there, or maybe you want to show interest in a specific company and find out about a specific opening. It is important to actually make strategic decisions on which events you go to and what the desired outcome is, because you can’t wear yourself out going to every networking event without even knowing what you want to gain from them.

We recognise that it might be a while before these face-to-face networking events open back up, and the effect that COVID-19 has had on networking is massive. Naturally, being unable to be in close proximity with others has meant that people have had to find other alternatives. 

Virtual Networking 

This has led to the rise of virtual events and online networking! Arguably, this may even be better than networking in person, as you can reach a wider group of people without even leaving your desk. The most obvious place to start would be LinkedIn. As a platform created specifically for professionals, it is the perfect place to put yourself out there. Before you begin, make sure your profile puts your best foot forward with a professional headshot and enough detail about your academic/career history that people know who you are without drowning in personal details. 

Once your profile is complete, go ahead and join groups in your field and reach out directly to individuals that pique your interest. Follow company pages to stay up to date on any advertised job openings, and also to let anyone who visits your page know where your interests lie. Posting content can also help build a following as only 3 million of the 500 million users on LinkedIn post content – so it’s likely that you’ll stand out from the crowd if you deliver consistent, quality content. LinkedIn aside, other social media platforms can also be used to find job openings, so it is always a good idea to make sure that your social media accounts showcase the best version of you and don’t contain anything that could scare off potential employers. In addition, follow companies that interest you on social media and keep up to date with what they are up to and what they are looking for – you never know what you could find!

There are also ways to network online without using social media, and one of these ways is using a platform called Meetup. Meetup is a way of meeting like-minded individuals and joining or creating communities as a way to network with people all over the world. Though it may be difficult to actually meet up with people you find on the platform, it is still a great way to build connections with people you would have never had access to. They have specific career groups and talks held by professionals across a range of fields. Much like you would go to an in-person event full of questions for speakers, virtual talks can create the opportunity to pick the brains of people in positions you would like to be in. Showing genuine interest in their professional journey and current career path often leads to details being exchanged and maintaining this professional relationship can naturally lead to job opportunities. There are even over 700 job search meetup groups with over 390,000 members – so it’s almost guaranteed you will find some connections on the platform.

Contact Directly

You can still tap into the hidden job market even without networking and having existing connections. This can be done via speculative approaches. A speculative application is when you contact an organisation about potential job roles that would be suitable for you despite them not advertising any vacancies. Not every job opening is actively advertised, and so using this approach broadens the number of potential jobs you have to apply for. It may not only be permanent roles available either. You can find internships or work experience via speculative applications, and often these can be used as a way to get your foot in the door and to work your way up to the position you truly want.

So how do you go about doing this? Start off by searching for employers that you would like to work for and companies with values that are in line with your own. Curate a list of these organisations, then consider what it is you are looking for from each of these places. It may not be the same for all of them – you may think you could get an internship at one but are qualified enough for a permanent position at the other! This is absolutely fine, and just means you will have to tailor your application for each potential employer. Find out the email and name of your person of contact at each company and personalise both your CV and cover letter to the position you are enquiring about. Look up what they look for in employees and be sure to mention your experience that demonstrates these skills. When it comes to writing the email, don’t only focus on what you want for the company; people don’t hand out favours for nothing in exchange. Maintain a balance of expressing your own interest and letting them know what you bring to the table, as this shows that they will also benefit from having you on board. Once you’ve done all this, expect that some won’t reply. Though harsh, companies get numerous emails a day from potential employees and many often get lost in the inbox. Don’t be afraid to send a brief follow-up email to remind them of your application, but don’t be too persistent as this will make it very unlikely that you will hear back.

Final Words

As daunting and tiring looking for a job you want can be, it is not as hard as it seems. It is important to understand that there are so many more jobs available than those that are explicitly broadcasted, and you will always a way into the career you want with persistence. This is not to say annoy potential employers with a hundred emails a day, but the right amount of interest goes a long way. Rejection is also inevitable – especially if you are using all the different methods mentioned above – but the process itself has benefits too. By looking for opportunities in places where the average person wouldn’t, you build your confidence and resilience as you handle rejection better and improve on your people skills along the way. Furthermore, it speaks volumes about your character to other professionals when you actively reach out about opportunities and show interest, as you are already demonstrating perseverance, eagerness to learn, and communication skills – all attributes that potential employers look for! So, be sure to implement all the strategies above when tapping into the hidden job market and stay positive; a job will land in your lap in no time.

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