It’s often called the hidden job market. About 75% of all job openings are never advertised. While job sites are great places to look for jobs, it pays to remember that the majority of jobs will never show up there. An estimated 70-80% of jobs are never published on a job search website like Indeed or Linked In, in the newspaper or even on the company website.
The reality is that the vast majority of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. So what’s a job hunter to do?
It’s a word my clients hate to hear.
It’s all about networking - making connections. It’s knowing - or getting to know someone who knows someone who knows about a job. Yes. That old truism is true. It’s WHO you know that gets you a job.
Most people spend their job search time surfing the internet - searching job sites and sending in on-line applications. Most companies receive hundreds of resumes for each job posting and those are only the ones that make it through the resume scanning robots that are the site of first rejection for many applicants. While job sites are still an important part of the job search, job hunters need to be spending even more time making those personal connections that lead to real and unadvertised job possibilities.
Why should you use your network to find a job? Here’s another statistic:
Referred applicants are five times more likely than average to be hired, and 15 times more likely to be hired than an applicant from a job board, according to a 2017 study by Jobvite.
So, how do you become a referred applicant?
9 Steps to Network Your Way into a Job
1. Make a list of everyone you know. The reality is that you know more people than you think. Use your email contacts list and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, etc, etc… and make a list of everyone you know. Seriously. Write them down. You can use an old fashioned notepad or create an Excel spreadsheet. Think about people you know from former jobs, high school and college, or your neighborhood. Also think about people you’ve met through your close connections: your brother’s co-worker; your college roommate’s boss; your co-worker’s spouse, friends of your parents and aunts and uncles. Don’t forget to include people like your doctor, accountant and yoga instructor.
2. Figure out what job you want before you start networking. Don’t waste time applying for jobs that aren’t a good fit for you. You’ll be much more successful when you have specific career goals and can tell your contacts “This is what I’m looking for.” It can be tempting to leave things wide open - but that leaves your contacts guessing at what kind of jobs to be looking out for and produces little results. Spend some time dreaming and outline what your ideal job would look like - including job title, responsibilities and company environment and culture. Be honest with yourself about those things you don’t want to do vs. those things that give you energy and that you want to do more of.
3. Create a list of companies that fit your criteria and that you would like to work for. Research these companies and work to find contacts within them. Ask everyone you know if they know anyone who works for those companies or organizations and then ask for an introduction. Use sites like Linked In and Glass Door to find potential companies and connections.
4. Start with your references and targeted contacts. Highlight those people on your list who have connections to your industry and companies you would like to work with. Contact them and let them know about your job search and your career goals and ask for their assistance. Take the time to make these connections personal and long-lasting. Focus on building a long term relationship so that your network becomes stronger over time and will be there when you need it. Make sure to send thank you notes and keep them posted on your progress.
5. Ask for advice, not a job. Don’t put your contacts in the awkward position of having to turn you down. Take some time to catch up, if they’re an old friend. Fill them in on your career goals and targeted positions and ask for advice in making connections or finding job possibilities. If the connection is a person you don’t know well, respect their time and keep your conversations brief and to the point.
6. Optimize Linked In. Yes. I’ve said it several times but if you are searching for a job, you need to be on Linked In with a fully completed professional profile and pic. Recruiters love Linked In but you can also use it to make connections with others in your industry. Join Linked In groups for your interests and industry. Joining groups on Linked In makes you more visible to recruiters and helps you add contacts. If you find a job opening you like, try to find a connection within that company and contact them rather than (or along with) an online application. Ask for a referral through that contact.
7. Join professional associations and organizations. Go to the meetings and conferences if possible. This is real networking at its best. You learn more about your industry plus you make connections with people doing the job you want to be doing. This also helps with resume building. You can add these memberships to your resume which increases your professional standing and helps recruiters see that you are invested and involved in your profession.
8. Make connecting a habit. Call your contacts and take them to lunch. Use Facebook and Linked In to touch base and keep people updated. Make 5 new contacts a week - or one a day. Make phone calls, send e-mails. Even after you land your dream job, keep the connection habit. You never know when you’re going to need it again. And that leads us to the last point…
9. Find ways to help others. Successful networking is a two-way street. That means giving as well as receiving. Send a thank-you note, ask about their family, email an article you think they might be interested in, and check in periodically to see how they’re doing. Help others along in their job search through your network. You are creating a professional network but it is also your community - a strong network of people who can support each other and share advice, connections and ideas. Make it authentic.