Chances are you've heard or seen the phrase "hidden job market," which refers to the unadvertised job openings you don't find on major job boards or in print. Especially in a down economy, when greater-than-usual numbers of unqualified candidates apply for advertised jobs, many employers prefer to find candidates through employee referrals, local professional associations, or other hidden channels. You can only find them via word of mouth (or perhaps more accurately with the rise in social media, via someone else's keyboard). This is what I call the new wave of networking.
Online or otherwise, networking can pay off big if you're looking for a job, and it should be a part of everyone's job search strategy. Even if you're among the shyest of people, there are ways to get your name and message out without having to undergo a drastic personality transplant.
Here are three ways to build your network:
Get online — now! Do you have a profile on LinkedIn or Facebook? What are you waiting for?!? More employers look beyond the resume and conduct online searches of candidates to determine who can make a good fit for the job and the company. Having a profile on such social networking sites both complements and augments the value you communicate in your resume. Take part in the LinkedIn or Facebook discussion groups that focus on your areas of expertise. That not only shows off your knowledge to a hiring manager, it helps you broaden your network. (Read about ways you can ensure an employer doesn't find anything in an online search that would embarrass or disqualify you.)
Get out and meet people. You don't have to hide behind your computer screen. Look around your area for job or industry networking groups, alumni groups from your college, or local chapters of industry associations that meet regularly. Once you're comfortable, interact with the other attendees to share job search experiences and contact information. Got more time to get involved? Take on a volunteer role with the group. Not only can that help build your network, it can serve as an experience you can add to your resume.
Offer to help others. Perhaps you've heard of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others what you would like to be done unto you." It's a good rule to live by. There are other people out there looking for work, and by giving them a job lead, a contact, or a reference, you're building goodwill among these people and adding to your network. They'll remember — and will want to reciprocate — when someone gives them such valuable information that led to a job interview or a job offer. But be warned: If you hand out someone's personal contact information before getting their permission, you'll risk ticking them off. So if you don't already have permission, call or email first. ("John! I met this guy last night at a networking meeting who could be perfect for that job you're trying to fill. Would it be OK for me to give him your contact information?")
Networking is not easy for everyone. But it's an essential element of any job search strategy, and the only way to tap into the hidden job market, which may provide your best chance yet of finding a great job opportunity.
What other job networking tips do you find important? Share them with us.
What the Heck is Networking and How Do I Do It?
Have Employers Ruined Facebook?
How 17 Real People Got Their Jobs