This week, we are excited to have a guest post provided by Mac Prichard, of the highly-esteemed Macs List in Portland, OR. Mac’s passion is to help job seekers, and he offers this advice to find a great job:
Most job seekers make the same simple mistake–one that makes their job search longer and more frustrating than it needs to be.
It’s not an ugly resume, a typo in their cover letter, or a faux-pas in an interview. Their fatal flaw is even more basic than that.
So what is this huge, no-good, slap-yourself-in-the-forehead mistake?
They rely, almost entirely, on job boards to find new work opportunities.
I own one of the largest and most-successful regional job boards in the country. I know that sites like mine are helpful in finding work–particularly in niche industries and targeted markets. But job boards should only be part of your job search–and a relatively small part, at that.
Why? Because jobs advertised online (or anywhere else) represent a very small fraction of the total work opportunities currently available.
Upwards of 80 percent of all jobs are never publicly advertised. Instead, employers fill these plum positions through networking, professional referrals, and word-of-mouth. This is what experts call the “hidden job market” and it’s often where you’ll find the best paying, most rewarding work opportunities.
If you’re spending all of your time searching online, you’re missing out on the hidden job market and 8 out of 10 best jobs.
How to Plug Into the Hidden Job Market
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Yes, it’s a cliche. It’s also 100 percent true.
Ask any hiring manager or HR professional and they’ll tell you this simple truth: employers hire people they know and people who are referred by trusted professional contacts.
This isn’t a conspiracy. It’s just basic human nature. It’s easier to establish trust when you already have some connection with another person. Plus, there are far fewer question marks as to whether that person will fit into the company culture.
It’s also good business. Organizations take on huge risks when they bring on a new employee. Hiring a known and trusted contact lowers the perceived risk.
When I tell people about the hidden job market, many job seekers have a similar reaction: they think it’s nepotism and unfair. And, in truth, I partially agree with this sentiment.
But here’s the good news: The hidden job market isn’t a closed or exclusive network. Any job seeker can get connected into this system.
You don’t need to be a scion of industry, an heiress, or the boss’ son-in-law. You don’t even need to have a particularly strong relationship with prospective hiring managers. Even second- or third-degree connections give you a huge leg-up in the hiring process.
If you want to find and land the best jobs, you just need to start building relationships with professionals in your field of interest. Meet with people. Share your skills, experience, and passion. The more you do these things, the more you become a known and trusted professional within your community.
This benefits you in two ways. First, you’ll discover unique and rewarding work opportunities. As people learn about your professional abilities, you become a go-to referral for opportunities that most align with your interests.
Second, you’ll have an inside track when applying for jobs–whether you find that position on a job board or through a referral. You’ll have an existing connection (either directly or through another contact) with the employer. You’re no longer just another faceless applicant lost in a tall stack of resumes; you’re someone who has already been vouched for and vetted.
Three Job Search Tactics that Work in the Hidden Job Market
No one likes looking for work. It’s often a frustrating and isolating experience, filled with more failures than successes.
And we make the process so much harder on ourselves than it needs to be when we rely entirely on the least productive job search tactics.
When you’re exclusively looking through job boards and applying to jobs “cold,” you have less than a two percent chance of getting an interview. This turns your job search into a numbers game, where you face rejection 98 percent of the time. You’re setting yourself up for failure!
When you look for work in the hidden job market, you dramatically improve your chances of finding meaningful work. Leveraging your professional network opens turns you on to jobs where there is less competition and where you already have strong internal referrals.
Of course, building professional relationships takes time and effort. Here are three three best ways to get started:
- Attend networking events: There’s no easier way to connect with other professionals (and prospective employers) in your field. Meet a dozen or more quality contacts in an hour!
- Do informational interviews: Connect and learn from influencers in your field of interest. You can uncover huge opportunities in just a 20-30 minute meeting.
- Volunteer: There’s no better way to showcase your passion and skills. Find a volunteer opportunity that allows you to utilize your professional abilities. You shouldn’t expect to get a job from the organization you’re volunteering with; but you’re value will be on full display to influencers in your community.
Given that 80 percent of jobs are available only through professional networking, I’d urge you focus 80 percent of your job search time and energy on the tactics listed above. You shouldn’t wholly ignore online job listings, but this should only represent 20 percent of your total search.
The upshot here is that the work you invest in networking yields benefits to your career that extend beyond your current job search. Rather than spending hours agonizing over a one-off cover letter that generate no response, you’re building a network that keeps you plugged into the latest and best job opportunities.
Anyone Can Do This
Accessing the hidden job market is all about networking. Unfortunately, “networking” is a word that terrifies many people. I’ve heard so many job seekers say things like “I’m an introvert” or “I’m too shy to network.”
These are emotional reactions based on a misconception of what networking is. Not all networking involves glad-handing in a ballroom of an airport hotel. There are many different ways and venues to connect with fellow professionals.
The fear of networking also comes from a false belief that you have you have to be a natural extrovert to connect with others. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Networking is a learned skill–just like riding a bike or learning a new language. There are some basic rule and it takes practice, but anyone (ANYONE!) can become a good networker.
In my upcoming online course, Hack the Hidden Job Market, I teach everything you need to know to build strong professional connections that kick start your job search and propel your career. I’ll take you, step-by-step through the process, from how to make the most of networking events, to conducting informational interviews, to closing the deal with employers. The course launches November 1.
Mac Prichard is the founder and publisher of Mac’s List, an online community that teaches job seekers how to connect to meaningful employment opportunities. He is the host of Find Your Dream Job, a nationally ranked career podcast, as well as the author of Land Your Dream Job in Portland, a book on how to compete in one of the nation’s toughest job markets. Mac regularly speaks and blogs on topics related to job hunting and career development. Contact Mac at firstname.lastname@example.org.