One of most difficult things to establish quickly is a good network. If you’ve become “unplugged” from your industry circle, your access to the Hidden Job Market is seriously compromised.
Our final approach to the Hidden Job Market is through networking.
This is a job search technique, but it is more than that. Networking is a constant requirement of a career, any career.
We used to think that the only people who needed to network were the sales and marketing folks because they were the ones on the front lines, representing the company to the world. The rest of us could sit at our desks with our heads down, “doing our job,” and not be bothered by the social aspects of the rest of the world. If that was ever true, it certainly is not the case anymore.
Jobs have become temporary. Careers have become multiple. We must communicate cross-functionally. We must move between industries and sectors. We must market our talents and skills to our co-workers, superiors, and a string of hiring authorities.
All of these efforts have one thing in common: networking.
Networking is simply the new term for “staying in touch.” It is also the most effective way to stay on top of the hidden job market. The people who say they have never conducted a job search in their lives are usually the ones who have a constantly active network. Rather than never searching for a job, they are always searching for a job. They are open to opportunities, aware of connections who can put them in touch with others in their industry, curious about what others know and do. They are always asking questions, meeting new people, and putting their new contacts in touch with others.
This is particularly important in a confidential job search. If you’ve never had a LinkedIn profile, never paid attention at staff meetings, never chatted with co-workers, never joined an association or attended a conference, and suddenly, you are doing all of them, your boss just got a big job change signal. If you don’t want your employer to know you’re looking, the best thing you can do is look all the time.
Here are a few steps to do that.
- Know your goal. Assume that you will be changing jobs at some point. Most of us land a job and become complacent. Somehow, we pretend we will always have this job, even though we know that is not how the world works most of the time. Rather than falling into that trap, decide what you want your next move to be. Even better, have an idea of your career path. Think three or four moves down the road. From what position do you want to retire? You can always change your mind, but having that goal helps you keep a perspective on your current position as part of a larger plan rather than the only goal you had. As part of that intention, make a “watch list” of companies you might like to work for someday.
- Talk to people. That may seem simplistic, but it’s an often-ignored technique. Some of us get so busy working that we forget we work with other people. They are our best source of information, hands down. You don’t have to turn into the office gossip to stay aware of the undercurrents and politics. You do have to spend time with your co-workers and let them know the kind of information that interests you. That’s called establishing your brand. If you’re always talking about the newest technology, people will think of you when they hear about a new app.
- Join groups. Widen your circle to include people outside your office. Form relationships with others in your industry who may know of job opportunities. One great way to do that is through professional associations. You can also find people by joining community groups such as the Chamber of Commerce or service clubs such as Optimists, Rotary, Lions, or Sertoma. Churches and non-profits of all types usually need volunteers. Even LinkedIn offers virtual groups in which you can meet people, ask and answer questions, and form relationships.
- Stay connected. When you are reminded of a person, reach out to them. Would the person who talked about needing a new CRM enjoy the article you just read about the top 5 ways to organize client information? The really good networkers keep a list of people they have met and proactively contact each one periodically, just to catch up.
- Watch industry news. Stay on top of business news so that when companies on your watch list make a move, you know about it. A couple of good ways to do this is through industry newsletters and Google alerts.
- Stay ready. Connect with recruiters. Have an updated resume and cover letter handy at all times. Update your LinkedIn profile monthly and post industry-specific information at least weekly to show that you are on top of your game. Keep up on career industry developments so you know that, for example, it is now necessary to have a version of your resume that can be ready easily by Applicant Tracking Systems.
The Hidden Job Market stays hidden only as long as you don’t look behind the curtain. It is readily accessible by anyone wishing to reach it. Networking is the best way to stay prepared for the inevitable job search. Make it easy on yourself by staying plugged in.
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