Guest post by Brighterbox: La la why don’t you get a job?

The hidden job market

There are two ways to find graduate jobs. One puts you up against loads of competition, leaves you likely to be ignored, and more often than not leads to rejection. The other completely minimises the number of candidates you are up against, often gets a personal response, and is ultimately the way most jobs are filled. It sounds like a no-brainer, yet the vast majority of job seekers still go about applying for positions the first way and spend little to no time on the second approach.

We are, of course, talking about the difference between applying for jobs advertised online and delving into the hidden job market. The hidden job market comprises of all the vacancies that exist which have not been advertised as being available – and according to some estimates, up to 80% of jobs are filled without being advertised.

So how do you find these elusive yet numerous opportunities? Here’s a quick guide.

Personal network

Even if you’re just starting your professional life, you have a personal network and it’s probably larger than you think. Your friends, older siblings, parents, friends’ parents, lecturers – they all hold contacts which may unlock your next role. If you get word out that you are looking (and which sector you want to get into), you never know who might hear or who you might be put in touch with. This certainly isn’t a precise science but companies love to hire on personal recommendations so definitely worth spreading your own gospel.

Online networking

Online networking functions in a similar way to using a personal network but, because the internet is a pretty big place and much easier to navigate than word-of-mouth, you can approach this in a more systematic, rigorous manner.

First and foremost, being a member of LinkedIn is a prerequisite. Assuming you’ve already signed up, write down the top five companies you would like to work for. Then, five companies in the same industry which are slightly different (maybe smaller, newer, different niche). Find them on LinkedIn (some guidance for beginners here) and identify key decision makers – this might be the CEO for a small company, it might be the manager of a particular team in a larger organisation.

Each person on LinkedIn will be listed as 1st degree connection, 2nd, 3rd, or out of your network. This is the degree of separation from you to them (i.e. 1st is someone you are connected with, 2nd is someone connected to one of your connections etc). When you find relevant people at interesting companies, check your connection level. First degree? Great – you know them! Drop them a line and away you go. Second degree? Also really useful – either get a direct introduction from your mutual connection, or reference them in a message to the person. 3rd degree or beyond? Send them a connection request, explain who you are, and ask if they can help (or email them – see below).

Remember, the more people you connect with, the larger your network and the greater the chance of someone useful being in it. So be sure to connect with everyone you know and maximise your ability to uncover hidden jobs.

Cold emails

Truth be told, this is an alternative to online networking but without the potential introductions that online networking can afford you. Great if you are just starting out on LinkedIn or want more space to be able to explain why you should be hired.

You should take the same systematic approach: identify relevant companies that interest you, make a list of the top ones, then find similar organisations that vary slightly from your top list. Then find their websites and, specifically, the Team or Contact pages on their site. Some companies will list employee email addresses, some won’t. If someone’s specific address isn’t there, it’s always worth taking an educated punt e.g. (firstname@company.com, first.lastname@company.com) or Googling it.

Your email should be informative but concise. It’s good to want to sell yourself, but no-one has time to read four hundred words on why your god’s gift to the business world. Think: short intro; one paragraph to introduce yourself, your degree and your key skills; one paragraph to explain why that company (do NOT make this generic!); and a final line with a question to encourage a response – “Do you ever take on graduate hires?”; “Would you consider looking at my CV with a view to a potential role at your organisation?”. Not absolutely everyone will reply, but if you word it well and target the right people, you will get some helpful responses at the very least.

That should be enough to get you started on your bid to uncover some hidden gems and get ahead of the crowd. Like anything in life – the easiest way of finding jobs isn’t necessarily the most rewarding!

– This post was provided by BrighterBox, who connect the brightest graduates with the best graduate jobs in London.

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