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September 14, 2012
How to Access the Hidden Job Market
It’s a term bandied about on numerous websites that gets every job seeker’s blood racing:

“Hidden job market.”
Yeah, right. “If that’s where most of the jobs are, then how do I get in on the action?”
The hidden job market, like the name suggests, consists of not easily seen openings that aren’t usually published for the general public. You find them in handshakes, personal emails, online digital footprints, informational interviews, professional connections, and by digging deeper into industry resources.
There is no “easy” button to punch here. All of the tips below are the result of a continuous process of managing one’s career. If done correctly, they can pave the way to hidden jobs coming to you. Be proactive, be professional, and do as much as you can do to build up a positive personal brand that can help propel you into your next job without having to go through the proverbial front door: the HR department.
1. Word of mouth. These are the jobs that happen by virtue of someone knowing you and making a recommendation on your behalf. They aren’t necessarily advertised to the world at large, but happen at a smaller level on a personal basis. Example: “Hey, Susie — I was just talking to my friend who is in need of a graphic designer, and I thought of you. I mentioned your name…why don’t you give him a call?”
2. Memberships. Being a member doesn’t COST money…it buys you access to your peers. At these meetings with fellow industry members, you will hear things like: “Did you hear that Fred left his position and is now the Design Director at ABC Company?” BAM. That’s a hidden job opening. Fred left the job and chances are his former employer hasn’t even posted anything yet.

3. Informational interviews. Do them right and treat anyone who takes the time to talk with you well, and these can open doors. Being “top of mind” can have tremendous payoffs. “It was great talking to you last month, and we are thinking of adding a new position within our company that would be a great fit for you.”

4. Your network. Networking should NEVER take place only when you need it. Smart people are always keeping their networking efforts going, even if they are securely ensconced in a job that they love. You never know. “Alan, I wanted to give you a call because we are about to build out our design department and you’ve been doing such a great job with ABC Company. We think you’d be just the person to lead our team.”

5. Business journals. Want to know who is hiring before they actually act on it? Subscribe to a local business journal. You can read about people taking new jobs (ding ding ding: opening at previous employer), companies that are entering the marketplace (ABC Company has just leased 50,000 sq. feet of space at XYZ Tower), or announcements that EFG Company is expanding their design studio. Learn to read between the lines, figuratively and literally!

6. Propose a job. Recently, I advised a client who was doing contract work to leverage their knowledge and understanding of the employer’s needs and propose an FTE job. It worked. The employee helped “connect the dots” between what the employer needed and what they could help the company achieve and made a compelling argument for creating a job that never was advertised.
Be proactive. Everything you do every single day adds up to your career brand and image, and this will help you gain access to the hidden job market.
If you have any ways to access the hidden job market, I would love to hear them as well!

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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