Hidden Jobs Market?

The best ways to finding work are not hidden.

Asking for directions and seeking opportunity are much easier than you think.

Since I was a boy, I’ve had a fascination with maps.

 It all started when I visited my Dad’s office in downtown San Francisco.  We took the BART train from Concord into the city.  When we arrived at Dad’s office–a centerpiece of which was a large drafting table, quite hard to find in today’s world–I was drawn to topographic maps he always had hanging on the wall in his office.  

You could touch the map and feel the reliefs, the mountains, and really see and feel the landscape to develop a 3-D understanding.  From this first love of maps, I became very interested in learning about the best path to the hidden job market.  In some cases, it allowed me to find the best path, even though on the map a straight line made the most sense, a navigable path made best sense.

“The opportunities are right there on the website, isn’t the application the best thing to do?”

A great supply and demand question. Statistics show that online application is a 3-5% return on investment. There is a better way…

About those maps.  Working with some very well educated engineers recently, I had a realization about best practices–pathways to success–in this case finding a job in a chosen field.  It is still widely accepted, and promoted by those who know and love us, that the sensible method is to provide a resume or make an application.  Understandably, job seekers are enticed by this path and the allure of employment coming from it.  Without question, this is a method that should be pursued and a path to explore.  The error in our ways is to invest our time only in one path: application/resume.

So what am I supposed to do?

What do you do when you get lost? Ask for directions.  In this case, we will discuss the top methods for finding work.  This is not an exhaustive list, but the most readily apparent methods to generate results in order of importance, not in order of application.

Clearly, if I asked for directions from 10 people on the best way to get to the airport, I would first have to describe what I feel is the “best” way–the one that’s fastest, or smoothest, or with the most gas stations to fill up my rental.  

As related to the hidden market, the best method should be leading me to the professional environment and organization of my choosing.  In common terms this is referred to as the “dream job”.  The more time you spend at the top of this list the better.

Hidden-Job

1. Finding, meeting, and incubating relationships with hiring managers

Interviews are the crown jewel and the outcome we all hope to get from the seeking process. Interviews at their core are face to face dialogues with hiring mangers and their teams. This activity is generally ignored while we are working, who has the time, right?

However, this activity is an ongoing method of keeping opportunity around us at all times. Here we are spending time identifying target companies, learning who the hiring managers are, meeting them face to face, and developing an understanding the origin of their headache.

While you are working, it’s sometimes helpful to provide that hiring manager some insights on what you are doing, or have done, to alleviate headaches.  The best treatment for that pain that I have found is (put your aspirin here).

Our willingness to ask questions, listen, and understand first–before offering our aspirin–is a key skill. As an unemployed job seeker, this process is the same. TIP: being prepared to answer delicate questions with confidence (hiring managers don’t really like to spend time with “job seekers”) so we can make it clear that the goal is not to demand employment.

2.  Networking with your inner circle of friends, family and colleagues

Networking seems to get a bad rap for being a slight handed approach. A bait and switch.  To the contrary. With any skill, there are those that do it well, and those that are learning to do it well.  The reason it likely gets a bad rap: networking is entirely synonymous with sales.  

The art of sales–asking really good questions that lead you to hiring managers–is one that many people avoid for the simple reason that they don’t like it.  Well, I don’t like it either when it is “me focused” and centered on a job requisition.  

You can think of several situations, I’m sure, that include a sales person droning on about how great their product or service is and how you would be a better person by buying it.  Don’t be that person.  Instead, be more like an investigative journalist.  

After asking someone in your inner circle a lot of really good questions about them and their world and their career, it’s not uncommon for them to request how they can help you.  This is your chance!  You have a map, all you need to do is ask for directions.  

Anything but a yes/no question here will be great, for example: Who do you know in [group you are interested in] at {1 to 3 companies you are targeting} that I would benefit from meeting with next?

Question and answer, it’s that simple. When you ask more questions than you answer, it’s amazing how many names you will get when you ask. Of course, we know that 100% of the people you meeting don’t know 100% of the hiring managers, so expect some “No” answers.  

BENEFIT: Starting with your inner circle, building up your confidence, and practicing is preferable to practicing on hiring managers.

Recommended Reading: National Business Employment Weekly: Networking by Douglas B. Richardson.

3.  Networking with acquaintances and total strangers at targeted companies

The more time you spend in the environment of your desired choosing, the closer you will get to hiring managers.  Some companies, this could take a long time.  A large fortune 100 company, with 100’s of thousands of employees, could take a lot of mapping and asking for directions.  

This time is well spent finding strategic connections to people you don’t know.  I often recommend associations in your profession, toastmasters, meetups, chambers of commerce, volunteer organizations, and other community events that are sponsored or held at the company you are targeting.  

When all else fails, spend time at the nearest Starbucks or lunch spot at the time employees are on the path to and from work.  A schedule might be, 7am to 9am at Starbucks, or 11am to 2pm at the Cracker Barrel across the street from corporate headquarters.  KEY: Friendly coincidental conversations, not stalking.

Sometimes corporations may look closed and off limits with high security, but their cafeterias are fair game for public use.  Please don’t tell them I told you it was okay (wink-wink). Best to treat these total strangers like hiring managers, because you don’t know when one of them will be a hiring manager!

TIP: Create a list of 2nd and 3rd degree Linkedin Connections from your inner circle in #2 above, then approach them for “strategic introductions” by company and role, not by name.

4.  Knock and talk, the proverbial cold-call

Believe it or not, and it may be hard to believe: 40% return on investment on cold calls.  This is where you show up to a company, dressed well, resume in hand and ask for a hiring manager in your chosen department.  

You can increase your chances with the 48-Days to the Work you Love (Dan Miller) approach: (a) letter of introduction, (b) cover letter resume, (c) follow-up contact in person or by phone.  This works really well when you have the name of a potential hiring manager, say from Hoovers, Linkedin, InfoUSA, ReferenceUSA, or some other tangible and reliable source.  

 

5.  Front door, play by the rules, direct application.

This is #5 of the list for a reason.  In general, this method typically generates one interview out of 25 applications.  Compared with the #1 on this list, networking with hiring managers, should generate 86% ROI..  With a low return on investment, still participate in this activity in an after-hours capacity.  

Productive hours during the day you can perform activities 1 – 4 above.  When you get home, have dinner and put your kids to bed, you can then spend the hours between say 9pm and bedtime putting in your applications.  

To improve your chances, you should follow-up your application with an additional communication to an employee you know, the assigned recruiter for the requisition, or anyone that will listen and perhaps provide a “flag” to get your application in the short pile, and not the round file.

Andrew Beach

Andrew Beach

Branding Specialist | Executive Career Coach | Teaching Self-Awareness

I help take the mystery out of finding your dream job. Through a direct and pragmatic process, we will guide you to the path. One step at a time, just a little bit closer to your passion.  It's through my personal story of finding meaningful work that I can share with you what I've learned.

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