Network your way into the hidden job market (before you really need to)

Written by Peter Harris
Posted on

I hear a lot about networking in my line of work, and it brings up images of nametags, schmoozing handshakes and palming business cards. I think all of that misses the point. Here are my thoughts on networking done right.

Most experts agree that only 15-20% of all available jobs are actually advertised to the public. Networking is the best way to tap into the vast supply of opportunities known as the ‘hidden job market.’ With such a large percentage of jobs going unadvertised, word-of-mouth referral is among the surest way to land a new job. These referrals come from your network.

Your network is made up of everyone that you know. This is why it is important to have clear career goals and to let the people in your life know where it is that you want to go. You never know who can help, or who knows someone who can help.

Start now and keep it up

Some experts say that ‘networking’ is not necessarily a ‘job search’ activity. This is because you cannot suddenly find yourself out of work and immediately ‘network’ your way into a new opportunity if you haven’t already been networking all along.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be attending industry conferences and swapping business cards (although doing some of that certainly isn’t a bad idea.) What you need to have is a built-up set of professional connections who think highly of your work and abilities in your field, who would love to work with you or recommend you to others. This is achieved through the connections you make in school, while working, in your community activities and on social networks. It is accomplished through authentic interactions, and it takes time to build a genuine and powerful network.

Just as the best time to look for a job is when you already have one, if you don’t start your networking activities until you’re out of work, you will have a harder time making the connections that can land you your next job.

Networking essentials:

  • You should also be willing to help others us much as you can as often as you can. Networking is a two way street – and people remember those who went out of their way to help them in the past. Pay it forward.
  • Keep in touch with your network. People stop taking phone calls from someone who only contacts them when they need something. So update your connections with what is going on with you, and make genuine inquiries about how they’re doing.
  • Have a short ‘elevator speech’ ready. This is a short couple of sentences that describe your career accomplishments and goals in a conversational manner. It’s just enough for you to summarize your expertise and career path in a brief and friendly way should someone ask you to.
  • Make sure your social network information matches your resume. You don’t want to claim a degree on your application that your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles show that you don’t have. (See the What most employers think you’re lying about (and what you should actually lie about).) Employers have also been known to double check that the dates of employment you list in your resume match with your profiles.

Most of all, it is important to be genuine. Networking isn’t about collecting business cards and schmoozing. It’s about having a positive professional reputation and being in touch with lots of people who respect that about you.

(Another way to tap into a hidden job market is by having up-to-date professional online profiles and posting a searchable resume on Workopolis. Recruiters search our site 16,000 times a day for candidates – often sourcing for jobs that are never advertised.)

Peter Harris
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