Conventional wisdom suggests that job seekers look for “openings or vacancies.” According to this approach, if you connect with people who don’t have or know of openings, you are wasting your (and their) time. However, data reveals that only 10%-20% of good job are advertised.
Consider the following:
→ Mark is looking for a sales job. His friend, Tim, loves his job at a dental supply company in Chicago and suggests that Mark meet with the St. Louis manager for a get-acquainted conversation. There are no current openings, but Mark follows his friend’s advice. The meeting goes well. He likes what he hears about the company, and his St. Louis contact tells him about the potential of a spring hire. Mark is invited to meet with a couple of other local employees, and he learns that a salesperson just left. Less than a week later, Mark is offered and accepts that former-salesperson’s job. The position was never advertised.
→ Kelly applied for an advertised position in the marketing department at an architectural firm. She liked the people and they liked her, but Kelly realized that the job wouldn’t play to her strengths. She stated her interest in the firm, AND her concern about the job’s fit; she declined the offer. They asked her to stay in touch, and she did. Several weeks later someone who’d been under-performing in a related, higher-level (and higher-paying) position was let go, and Kelly was offered that job. She accepted. Although the job she initially applied for was published, the job she was offered and accepted was never advertised.
→ Through a research-gathering meeting at a university, Sharon was referred to another person at that university. Unknown to Sharon, a job had been advertised and interviews with 3 finalists had already been arranged. Even though the deadline had passed and her resume would probably not have made it through the HR screening process, her poise and focus so impressed her contacts that she was invited to interview as last-minute, 4th candidate. After a strong round of interviews, she was hired, even over an internal candidate with more experience. Though the position was advertised, she didn’t know it; she was invited to interview, even after the official deadline had passed.
→ Jon had a referral meeting with the Executive Director of a non-profit agency whose services he had used several years earlier. Jon believed in the agency’s service and mission. His enthusiasm and business background impressed the Director. Although he knew that Jon would be a great addition to his staff, there was no money to offer him a job. Two months later, the agency was approved for a new program. The director contacted Jon and created position for him. The opportunity was never advertised.
What is the Hidden Job Market?
The hidden job market consists of any unmet need an employer has, before it’s made public. Unadvertised opportunities result from reorganizations, promotions, resignations, and growth. Even downsizing can create opportunities! Ironically, the best jobs can emerge from a need an employer doesn’t know she has until she meets you.
Phase 1: No Need; no action. The company or department is fully staffed. Thus, “no openings.” (Jon met with the Director at this stage.)
Phase 2: A need emerges; no formal action taken. Possible addition of staff, re-organizing, early retirement, an under-performer, possible staff member leaving. Thus, “no openings.” (Mark’s contact with the St. Louis manager happened at this stage.)
Phase 3: A need; unpublished action begins internally, informally. Proposal for adding staff (awaiting financial and/or Human Resources approval), sudden departure of an employee, rapid growth, anticipated need. Still, “no openings.” (Kelly’s interview for the position that opened up after her first interview)
Phase 4: A need and the action is public. It’s published—on the company website, online (Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, craigslist.org; in the paper, in professional publications). Finally, an “opening.” (Sharon’s contact ended up here, though she was unaware of the advertised position.)
Implications for Your Search
Don’t confine your search to openings. Purposeful contact with hiring decision makers, even when there are no vacancies (stages 1-3), yields far more opportunities than intensive scouring of online postings, newspapers, and trade publications. How?
1) This approach saves you the exasperation of dealing with the gate-keeping fortress of the Human Resources screening process.
2) You learn about unmet needs, possible opportunities, and openings yet-to-be published.
3) You have contact long before the thundering horde appears, giving you an inside track—and reduced competition.
Hiring decision makers benefit, too. Good employers are always on the lookout for talent. By cultivating broad and deep networks of contacts and referral sources, they are spared the frustration, time, and expense of finding suitable candidates in the more traditional manner.
Expand your search beyond openings. Take control by tapping into the most productive part of the job market. Although this method takes time and may require learning some new skills, you’ll be in the driver’s seat and get much better results!
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A VERY WORTHWHILE READ
Jon Acuff’s most recent book, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck, describes how to build a “career savings account.” Not monetary, it’s built of relationships, skills, character, and hustle. Such a savings account can see one through the variety of career and job challenges we encounter–facing a ceiling, hitting a bump, making a jump, or creating a new opportunity.
Told with his trademark humor and lots of examples, Acuff’s framework makes sense and is applicable in any stage of one’s career: just getting started, mid-career, or winding down.
Consider a Career Planning Action (CAP) session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the comment form on my website.