I’ve heard references to the hidden job market that go back decades, so this isn’t a new concept. We used to say that only a small percentage of available jobs were ever found in the classified section of the local newspaper. Fast-forward to the Internet age, and the statement changes to “only a small percentage of available jobs are advertised on the Web.”
So where are those hidden jobs hiding? Why aren’t they being advertised, and how can you find the ones you’re most interested in?
The last part of that question is a key piece of the puzzle. It suggests that you need to conduct a highly focused and active search to find opportunities, for at least a couple of reasons: (1) The job you’re after might get filled without ever being advertised anywhere outside the company. (2) Even if it does eventually show up as an opening online, your competition increases significantly, and they’ll all be going after the posted job just as eagerly as you will. I don’t know about you, but if I were looking for a new position in today’s tough job market, I’d prefer a less crowded field of competitors than that.
Opportunities in the hidden job market won’t land themselves in your lap.
Here’s the sticking-point for a lot of job seekers: By far the most effective approach to the “new reality” of finding a job takes effort…maybe a lot of effort and a fair amount of time. Conducting a job search was much easier, at least on the face of it, when all you did was find an advertised opening and submit your resume and cover letter. Easier, maybe. At least you could tell yourself you were doing something constructive. Effective? Only if you didn’t have much competition or just happened to get in on the ground floor ahead of them somehow. Now you need to turn the old adage about “work smarter, not harder” on its head a bit and work both smarter and harder to manage your career wisely, unearth desirable employment opportunities and pursue them successfully.
Those opportunities might lurk in the minds of company employees you know (or don’t know but should), vendors the company uses, people you have a connection to via LinkedIn or other social media venues, or a host of other places. Your assignment, to paraphrase television’s “Mission Impossible,” is to get out there and connect the dots that will lead you to new and emerging opportunities. If you haven’t already developed at least a short list of companies you want to target, that’s one place to start getting to know people. Those companies might not be hiring now, for instance, but if you establish a foothold with a few insider connections, you’ve positioned yourself to jump ahead of your competition.
What works in job searching has changed. Are you changing with it?
Another point to consider is the changing nature of employment and company hiring these days. If we’re old enough, we might think back longingly to the “good old days” when jobs were plentiful and almost anyone who was breathing could get one without trying too hard. Of course, the good old days of easy employment might not be as good as our memory paints them, but even if they were, they’re gone. And they’re not coming back. Sorry, but that’s the reality. I recently started reading a book that makes this clear; it’s called Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0, by Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry. As the book notes, “Looking for an old-fashioned job like the one Dad used to have is a waste of your time.” Further on, it states, “The hidden job market isn’t really hidden. It is just not in plain sight….The only successful way to access this market is to reach the hiring managers before they opt to go the advertising or HR route.”
Clearly, you need a plan for the new reality of job search–one that keeps you on track, makes the best use of your available resources, and gives you the flexibility to adjust your actions when you need to–which you probably will.