It all started innocently with a question: where do you see yourself at the end of this posting.
He said, I am seeking a school position where I can help to plan and introduce structures to support students with special needs better.
One thing led to another. I recalled a school that could be a good fit for this person, and decided to check if there is an opportunity there. I made several connections, and secured an interview session for this person. The school has not met him, but is interested to take him in for the position after learning about his background and experiences.
This is not the first time. There was another occasion when a friend was looking for a school to teach in, as her school had to reduce the number of teachers because of an impending school merger. She contacted me to ask if I know of any opportunities. I listened to what she could do, thought through some of the schools I know, and made some calls. One school (which happens to be her alma mater) was interested, and I made the connection.
Yet there was another occasion when I was looking to fill a management position in my school. Rather than wait to advertise the position alone, I asked some contacts to check if they know of people who may match what I am looking for. Within a few weeks, I received several recommendations and identified a suitable person.
The Hidden Job Market
What I am writing about is the hidden job market, a phenomenon that happens in any industry. It is called so because the vacancies in these companies are unknown to the general public. You cannot go to a job portal or browse through job listings to see these jobs. Such vacancies are known only through a network or through recruiters.
The hidden job market is very real in many industries. As vacancies can crop up anytime because of people movement, and companies sometimes need to fill up these vacancies urgently, they cannot afford to place advertisements and go through the entire hiring process. So what companies rely on is usually through their networks or recruiters.
That is why it is useful to network so that you will know who is on the lookout for hires.
Networking comes from building relationships, not from making contacts. People are more likely to help you if you have a relationship with them. You do not have to make it obvious that you need to rely on that person in a job search. But what you can do is explain your situation. Chances are the other party will reciprocate.
What else can you do besides networking? Surely there can be other ways besides networking to access such opportunities? I can think of the following ways that you can gain access to the hidden job market.
1. Plug in to the developments in your industry of interest
If you aspire to develop in a particular industry, make sure to keep abreast of the developments in the sector. Sign up for events linked to the industry. Attend conferences or subscribe to newsletters. Read media reports about the companies, Over time, you should develop an awareness of who are the key players, what is evolving and what is coming. These information can help you make sense of where you want to find the potential opportunities and connect with the right people.
2. Establish your branding
Let’s be realistic. Employers want people who can deliver value and add to the growth of the organisation. You as an employee want to gain as much out of your job (be it in terms of salary and benefits, growth, learning or other areas of interest).
To get to a win-win situation, you can do the one thing within your control: be the employee an employer would want to hire. Being a valuable person to the company is insufficient though. You also need to make sure you are known in the industry for your value. This is where your personal branding comes in.
Make it a point to establish your branding. Credentials and achievements are important, but they do not determine your branding alone. Show how you can add value. Think of ways to do that. A strong branding should be accompanied by visible markers. For instance, a successful influencer could be seen by the sales generated from his or her work.
3. Make yourself visible
Sometimes making yourself visible will be helpful. Instead of doing outstanding work in your organization, consider giving your time away to help out in other organisations. You could lend your expertise to support organisations in need, or you could volunteer advice to others in companies in the same industry. Making yourself visible this way could open some doors over time.
Some may balk at volunteering your time and expertise on a pro bono basis. Instead of assessing the immediate costs and benefits, ask yourself a few questions. What are possible long term benefits of volunteering in an organisation or in a specific capacity? How can volunteering strengthen your abilities and attitudes, and enhance your personal brand?
Another way to make yourself visible is to introduce yourself to companies you are interested in joining. Cold calls can be quite interesting. I had received emails from people who are interested to teach on a part-time basis in my school. While I may not have a need at that point in time, I keep records of these emails so that I could refer them to other schools if necessary, or retrieve them when I do have a need.
4. Tap on your existing networks
Don’t be surprised by what your existing networks can offer, even if they are not in your industry or your industry of interest. Your networks can come from a range of sources, from your school alumni associations to your religious groups, to non profits you are vested in, or even clubs and interest groups you may have joined since young (or in adult lives).
Social media networks are becoming more important today. You have the opportunity to interact across a range of topics and issues, which give insights to the person you are ‘interacting’ with. Such insights can help you consider the other party as a potential hire, if you are on the lookout to fill a specific role.
The hidden job market is very real. There are many reasons companies don’t want to conduct an open hiring exercise. At the end of the day, always ask yourself how you want to tap on this hidden job market when you do need it. It always pays to be prepared.
What is the hidden job market like in your industry? Do you know where or what you can do to tap on this market?