Tapping Into the Hidden Job Market

Posted August 21, 2013 by
Group of college students

Group of college students. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Once upon a time, the want ads were king, and job seekers could be relatively successful in finding employment by pounding the pavement based on what the want ads and job boards were offering.

In the current workplace climate, that pavement has significantly narrowed. The majority of jobs — experts estimate between 70 to 80 percent — are not advertised by employers, so those who rely solely on job boards to find positions are missing out on most available opportunities. Unfortunately, many college students are unaware of the hidden job market and still operate under the notion that earning a degree and responding to job posts is all they need to do to land a great job.

“Students know that they must go to college to get a good job, but they haven’t gone beyond that to understand what it takes to get that job. They don’t understand that it’s not just going to college, but it’s what they do at college that will get them into a career field,” said Bill Fletcher, Director of Middle Tennessee State University’s Career Development Center. “A college degree in and of itself is not going to get you a good job.”

Five Tips for Landing Those Hidden Jobs

In order to find a position in the rapidly changing economy, it’s imperative for college grads to be strategic when looking for a job — and to adopt several tactics to help them stand out among a sea of applicants. The following tips can help you navigate your way through the hidden job market and make the connections you need to land a position.

Create a career plan. Fletcher says that one crucial step college students regularly overlook is to create a career plan, so they have a roadmap of what they can actually do with their degrees after graduation. Although in many cases, students already have a good idea of what career they want to pursue when they choose a major, Fletcher notes that oftentimes, students focus their attention more on their major than on potential job opportunities. In order to help students create a more defined plan, he advises them to do their career homework, which includes taking assessment tests that give students an idea of what careers match their interests and personality and doing research on different careers and companies to educate themselves on what’s out there. A good place to start is your school’s career services department.

In addition, Fletcher suggests that students regularly talk to people — such as faculty members and alumni — who can give them more information on how to break into different careers, and to participate in at least two internships to gain practical work skills.

Build a network. Thanks to social networking sites, it’s easier than ever for job seekers to connect with the companies they’re interested in. But in order to build a real connection, you must use social networking to have meaningful conversations with professionals based on common interests. It’s not a forum to necessarily ask for a job right off the bat, but rather a way to get to know people who work in the industry you’d like to break into.

“There is a shift where companies and employees at companies are much more available and reachable than they have been in the past. Tools like Twitter or LinkedIn mean that a student can reach out to any employee who fits their interests at a given company they’re excited about,” said Nathan Parcells, co-founder and CMO of InternMatch. “But networking is all about relationship building, so it’s not something you can do and expect an immediate payoff.”

Another way you can build your professional network is by conducting informational interviews, which are conversations with professionals in the field you’re interested in where you ask them questions about their career. Like social networking, informational interviews are not necessarily going to lead to the immediate payoff of a job offer, but they will help you gain information you can use during your job search, while building relationships with professionals who may be able to directly or indirectly help you find a job later on.

Get involved in campus activities. Campus activities give you the opportunity to network with your peers while gaining skills that will impress future employers. Companies value employees who can work as part of a team or speak in public, and campus clubs and other activities can give you practical experience in these areas.

Build your brand and social resume. Building a strong and consistent presence online based on your talents and interests is a good way to let employers learn more about you — and why you may be a good candidate for a job. This can be done by creating a blog or podcast, or by sharing information about your interests on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Parcells explains the importance of branding during your job search this way: “Companies really want to know what your story is, and a lot of companies are recognizing that things like GPA and the school you went to are not always reflective of who is going to be a good fit for them. An online brand can help you because it’s a consistent message that reflects your interests as a professional and your personality.”

Be proactive. No matter what strategy you choose to connect with professionals, Fletcher says the most important thing is that you do something.

“I can guarantee you if you’re doing nothing, your path is never going to accidentally cross someone else’s path. If you’re out there doing something, luck will have a chance to take place. You have to be actively engaged in the process,” he said. “There are ways to find the hidden job market — through networking, interning, doing research, and conducting informational interviews — but it doesn’t happen sitting on the couch playing Xbox.”

By: Kenya McCullum

About the Author:

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California. She contributes to several websites including OnlineColleges.com.

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