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How is it that some people seem to waltz into new, exciting jobs, with seemingly no effort, while you slog away, sending your resume to one opening after another, only never to hear back? What are those lucky jobseekers doing differently?

Let me fill you in on a secret. Sending your resume to publicly-posted job ads may seem like a reasonable way to pursue the next step in your career, but in fact, this approach is extremely inefficient. The truth is, these job ads represent only 20% of the jobs out there. You heard that right: 80% of all jobs are never advertised publicly. (Why? Because public job ads actually involve a ton of extra work for employers.) This means that whenever you apply to a job you found online, you are competing with a large number of jobseekers, for only a small percentage of the jobs in your industry.

So how do you access the hidden job market? And how do you find that 80% of jobs are never posted online?

You do it by networking and building relationships.

You’ve probably heard already that you should network in order to find job opportunities. But how, exactly, are you supposed to network, in order to see real results?

Here are three concrete, actionable steps you can take in order to network effectively, reduce the length of your job search, and find out about exciting hidden career opportunities.

1. Reconnect With People From Your Past

Your former colleagues or your old boss who moved to a new company, your college professors, and even your friend’s cousin working at a firm in your industry – these are all people who may have valuable information about hidden jobs. The easiest way to start accessing the hidden job market is simply getting in touch with people you already know. So email peers and mentors you’ve fallen out of touch with, ask them for coffee or a phone call and start reconnecting.

As you rekindle these relationships, though, don’t be transactional. You should be connecting with individuals you genuinely want to talk to, not people you simply hope will point you to a new job. If you are only contacting someone because you want something from them, they’ll know it – and the whole interaction will feel sour.

Once you are having coffee and catching up, use the art of the indirect ask. Don’t demand to know whether there are any job openings at their company. This puts your contact on the spot and can make them feel uncomfortable; plus, it’s more likely than not that they won’t know of any specific openings. Instead, approach your job search as a challenge to tackle together by asking for their guidance – for example, by saying something like “I’m considering switching companies. I wonder if you have any advice on where I should look or whom I could talk to about opportunities in our industry.” This puts the person on the other end into problem-solving mode and lets them determine the best way they can help you out – whether it’s through an introduction, an insider tip, or information about a job opening. Ultimately, this approach will save a lot of time in your job search.

2. Network Strategically

What if you’re looking to make new contacts? Many job seekers think “networking” means “going to a networking event.” There, they typically mill around with other people looking for jobs, talking to each other, or vying for the attention of a few employers or recruiters in attendance. This is fairly unlikely to yield any results.

Instead, work to identify the hidden job market. And who will know about hidden job opportunities that aren’t advertised to the general public? People who are already employed. Thus, your goal should be meeting professionals in your industry, in environments where they are naturally going. Some examples of good places to make new connections: industry conferences, trade shows, and professional development seminars.

3. Set Specific Goals

Many people apply to jobs reactively: they see an interesting position posted on a job website and submit their resume. But you will get better results by being proactive – namely, sitting down and determining which companies you are interested in. After making a list of several companies you are interested in, check the “Careers” section of their websites; but don’t stop there. Instead, find out whether you know anybody who works at the company, and set up a coffee date with them. Don’t know anybody who works there? See if you can get introduced. You can use LinkedIn’s advanced search to research whether you have any second-degree connections and ask for an introduction.

What if your contact works in a completely different department than the one you are interested in?

You should try to meet anyway.

First, chances are, they might know someone who is closer to the department you want, so you can follow the chain of introductions.

And second, they will still have insider access to information about what is happening in the company – information that you can use to understand the problems the employer is facing, their culture, and how you can build better rapport during the interview.

What You Can Do This Evening to Start Finding Hidden Jobs

  • Reach out to at least three people you know in your industry at other companies, and ask them out to coffee.
  • Find at least one event that will be attended by employed members of your profession – whether it’s a class, a conference, or a meetup for industry insiders.
  • Make a list of five companies where you think you might like to work. Determine if you know anyone at these companies, and if not, use LinkedIn’s advance search to find people in your network who are connected to these companies’ employees.

Then, get in touch and let me know how it went!

Written By
Lidia Arshavsky is a certified professional resume writer and career strategist who helps expats, immigrants, and international job candidates crack the U.S. job market and land a great American job. Learn more at ExpatResume.com

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