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Finding the Hidden Job Market

Advice, CV advice, Job hunting September 16, 2007

Finding the Hidden Job Market

If up to 80% of jobs that are available to graduates go unadvertised, how are you supposed to find them?
Zara Rabinowicz investigates

Are you scanning the job sites and failing to find anything to inspire you? That’s because you’re only viewing a fraction of the job market. Many employers fill their job vacancies by methods other than national advertisements. Using referrals or word of mouth and hiring speculative applicants or former interns are common practice. According to Warwick University careers service, this can mean that up to 80% of jobs can go unadvertised. To find them you are going to have to be proactive:

Think about what you have at your disposal and utilise it. Visit your university careers office and scan through the literature and contacts they have. Check out your alumni sector for past students and see if any of them are now working in a field that interests you. Most will be more than happy to give advice and could provide you with valuable insider tips in your chosen field. Go through your address book, and your parents’, and your friends’. Does anyone know anyone with experience in your chosen sector? Collect business cards and follow them up with a brief call or email – these contacts may provide you with the information you need to get your foot on the ladder. It’s surprising how many more vacancies are suddenly ‘available’ with a little bit of networking.

It’s not only who you know, it’s who knows you. Make yourself more high profile by sending out speculative applications. Smarten up that CV and start tailoring it to individual companies, as mass-produced photocopies show a lazy streak. Call up the company you are interested in and ask who is in charge of recruitment. You will get a name to address your letter to – and it’s the personal touches that show initiative and thoughtfulness. When applying for jobs that aren’t advertised you have to be organised. Research the company first and try to pick up information about the types of work it undertakes. That will help you to be clear about the type of work you are seeking – and whether it’s temporary, long term or voluntary. It’s also important to make sure you tailor your skills carefully to each company. And make sure to follow up you application within two weeks, whether by phone or letter.
If the company doesn’t have any jobs or work experience available, consider asking if someone could spare the time for a informational interview (see below). And remember to keep a record of where you have applied to and what response you have received – this will help you to assess the feedback you receive from companies

A trick of the trade is to call up and ask for an ‘Informational Interview’, as this is a great way of sussing out the pros and cons of different companies, with an avenue in for possible vacancies. Instead of phoning up someone and saying ‘give me a job!’ you’re asking employers for a few minutes of their time so they can talk about their jobs, their industry and opportunities. It sounds intimidating but in most cases if you get into a conversation with the mentality of ‘Hey, I want to know all about you’ – people are flattered. Don’t forget though, these interviews should be prepared for with the same care and research as you would for a conventional interview.
When you get the interview, ask what it’s like to work in their industry; ask how you break into the field; do they know anyone else you can talk to; or even ask for a bit of job shadowing or work experience. The approach is that even if this person doesn’t have exactly what you need (ie a job), they may know a lot about the market and the sector, which can be extremely useful. Be sure to be enthusiastic and charming – whatever result you achieve can be filed under experience.

Working long hours may not be very glamorous, but when listed on your CV it becomes an incredible asset. Not only do you gain in-office experience, hopefully you will also gain a greater understanding of the parameters of your proposed career choice – an invaluable lesson. Many of the ‘hidden jobs’ also surface in the work environment, where work-experience candidates are often recruited onto further paid positions. Larger companies will have work-experience schemes already in place, but it is worth contacting smaller branches, because there may be greater responsibility allocated there. Placements can also be found by contacting companies you are interested in, or through your university/careers office.

Try and try again! It is a competitive world out there and if you don’t handle rejection well then it pays even more to put a lot of effort into preparation. But don’t take it personally when you are turned down – simply use it as a spur to motivate you along the path to career fulfilment. With a creative proactive approach to jobs, you will find availability in niches you never expected. And remember, as self-made millionaire Harold S. Geneen once said, "In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later."

Temporary work doesn’t have to be a dead end, indeed it can be one of the best ways to find your way into a great company and great job. Just like Bryony Hewer, English and History BA, who graduated from Queen Mary University earlier this year without a clue what to do. She’s now working as a human resources administrator for fashion shoewear company Dune earning £17,500 a year (plus a serious discount on her footwear).

Q How did you find you current position?
"I was temping for about a month and a half at the Dune headquarters. I got on well with staff there and when the role came up as a permanent position they offered me the job full time, with increased responsibility."

Q What approaches did you take to get employed?
"After I graduated, I spent two weeks going around recruitment agencies, reading the vacancies sections in newspapers and filling out online applications. It was intensive – I was doing it day and night. In the end, I was asked to eight external interviews."

Q What skills are imperative in your line of work?
"Excellent customer services, being organised and taking a lot of phone calls. Good communication skills are vital too, particularly when you are explaining company procedures to someone. Plus, excellent time keeping. An interest in the fashion industry and all that surrounds it helps too. One perk of the job is a 50% discount on all Dune products, which means I get a lot of new shoes!"

Q What tips would you offer students looking for work?
"Look all the time for opportunities so you
can maximise your chances. Don’t sell yourself short, be confident and give examples from your past where you can demonstrate why
you would be good for the job."


Comments are closed.

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