The majority of jobs never get advertised. Many are acquired through being offered permanent work after placements or work experience, spontaneous offers of employment from people you know and speculative applications. Speculative applications are when someone sends an organisation a CV and covering letter without having seen a job advert: hoping to secure work. For most though, speculative applications are only effective if sent in conjunction with some form of personal contact beforehand. To access the hidden job market there is a clear process to follow. If you do so, you could open up this rich new source of vacancies.
- Consider which kind of role you are looking to acquire. Identify the sector it is in and potential employers by looking at the relevant job description on “types of jobs” – www.prospects.ac.uk/types_of_jobs_browse_all.htm on Prospects in the “employer and vacancy” sources section.
- Consider whether it is the type of role that may belong to a particular professional body. Use the Business Link professional body search engine (www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/findcontactbrowse?topicId=1074537120) and hunt for member listings.
- Once you have a reasonable list, try to sort them into high, middle and low level interest.
- Identifying target employers.If you have a role in mind, but haven’t seen it advertised, the first step is to identify the kinds of employers who may offer that work. Try the exercise in the box below to get started on this.
- Researching employers.Once you have a prioritised list of target employers then research the most important ones in more depth. Getting closer to the issues, exciting projects and potential restructuring it may soon to face can help you work out whether relevant roles are likely to come up. In addition, your research will help you to better tailor your CV to their organisation and job roles.
Note that at this point in the process you begin to shift from information gathering that can help your job search into networking, where you begin to build more in depth relationships with contacts.
- Establishing tactics.Asking for a job straightaway may be too direct, but for organisations that are not your top priority, sending off a speculative application, incorporating a tailored CV with a carefully worded covering letter, may make sense. For those that are particularly important to you it would be useful to arrange a short meeting
- Preparing a CV.Before you begin to make contact with employers, it is a good idea to have a strong, tailored CV to hand should you need it. You will be able to improve this further after any contact with them, but they may well ask for a copy before they are willing to meet with you. For help with this head to our getting started pages I want to write a successful CV.
- Organise a meeting.Try to arrange a visit to meet someone in the organisation that interest you the most to ask them questions about the role. You may have someone in your network that could help or you may need to contact the organisation “cold” and ask for someone to speak to. Begin to identify your network of contacts, try the exercise in the box opposite. Meet up with someone a step up from the grade above your potential starting grade if you can. Asking for too much time of a senior person in the organisation may not prove effective. Contact the person in advance to warn them you would like to arrange a meeting. See below for an example of an email structure you could use. You may or may not want to offer your CV at this point, but you should include some basic details about yourself in your email.
- Preparing for the meetingPrepare the questions you want to ask. Only ask the amount that will fit the time you have to spend with your contact. Try to avoid asking “lazy” questions that could have easily been found out elsewhere. Reflect on the appropriateness of your questions and what they say about you, and be prepared to have a go at answering them yourself. Try to ask the questions that you are unlikely to get from any other source. Get the inside track on what is going on and some detail on current issues for the sector, job role and organisation. Find out their views and perspectives on the occupation and organisation. Also, plan how you will greet the person and build rapport with them.
- Follow the right etiquette.When you go to the meeting, arrive on time. Try to ask all your questions but don’t overrun. Listen to the answers as asking a question that has already been answered will waste your contact’s time. Always act professionally and be aware that you are creating an impact with the employer. Once you return home, thank the contact who has helped you. If they have asked to see your CV or any other information send it through promptly. You may also want to update that contact briefly at a later date when you secure employment to thank them for their role in your success, but don’t overdo this as you may end up taking up too much of their time.
- Start to build a mind map of all the people you know.
- Ensure you include friends, family, peers at university, academic staff, previous work colleagues, school friends, ex-teachers, neighbours and so on…
- Now indicate whether you think they may have any kind of connection with the sector or organisation that interests you.
- Score them with a 1 – strong connection, 2 – moderate and 3 – weak connection.
- Now rate how likely they might be to want to help you 1 – very likely, 2 moderately likely, 3 unlikely.
- Arrange to meet those with a stronger connection who are most likely to help you.
- Think in advance about what you are going to say and what help you want to ask for
You are unlikely to immediately secure a job from a networking meeting, but be patient and your network will begin to be productive. Value other benefits such as gathering information your competitors may not have that will help with CV and interview preparation, finding further contacts (make sure that you gain one or two new contacts to help you develop your network) and even securing unpaid work shadowing or work experience.
We have talked about networking here within the context of trying to secure a job in a very task focused way. The most productive way of networking is to start, right from university, building up your contacts and nurturing them through regularly keeping in contact, catching up and helping each other out. If you keep on doing this with a range of contacts in the environments that are important to you (and beyond) you will find that when you need to find a job, or move jobs, or find some information or get some advice, you will be able to access your network to do this. Many students feel that networking creates an unfair advantage. The truth is that it is a natural phenomenon that everyone takes part in to a greater or lesser extent. Remember that your turn will come to help out a new graduate who needs to visit and find out more about what you do, so you can repay your ‘debts’ in the future.
- BusinessBalls.com (www.businessballs.com/business-networking.htm) has some great advice and insights about networking.
Dear Mr X,
Your name was suggested to me by my neighbour Mrs Y as someone who may be able to help me further develop my knowledge of working in this sector. I graduate this summer and want to build my career in this area. (Introduces you and quickly gains credibility and more commitment from them by having a common contact)
I am particularly interested in finding out more about marketing and Mrs Y suggested that with your experience you could offer me some relevant advice. (Explains why you are contacting him and how he could help)
I hope to take up no more than about 20 minutes of your time. (Removes the employer’s major concerns about seeing you)
What I would like are some ideas about how someone with my background and experience could best get into this sector. (Clarifies exactly what help you need)
I intend to telephone you later on this week to arrange a time to talk which would be convenient for you.
(Tells him what you intend to do and when and that you aim to fit the arrangements around him).