If you recently graduated college, you may find yourself either a) just starting to navigate the choppy waters of the job market or b) re-strategizing your job search. The current job market makes it difficult and more competitive for entry-level job seekers to find jobs the traditional way – through job postings online. The hidden job market, on the other hand, allows jobseekers to reach out to their network and seek out opportunities through them that have not been publicized; thus reducing competition and the risk of your resume becoming lost in cyberspace.
As a recruitment firm with an internal recruiting team that often attends college career fairs, hosts-in house Career Days, and hires recent graduates who go on to lead successful careers at our firm, we have some tips to help you make that transition from recently graduated to gainfully employed. Below are some suggestions for perusing the hidden job market from Theresa Mok, Managing Director of Internal Recruitment and Training:
- Tap into your network:
- To begin your networking endeavors, create a ‘Central Administrative Tool’ in Excel. This document, which will help keep you organized, should include a list of all your possible contacts (college alumni, professionals you interned with, parents’ friends who can help you, etc.). When creating this tool, include these columns:
- Name of Person
- Name of Company
- Phone #
- Date Resume was Sent
- 3 columns for follow up (to make notes of the dates you followed up)
- Interview Date
- After you create your list, highlight people who work in service industries (i.e.: accounting, legal, insurance, IT consulting) because the nature of their business will allow you to tap into their client base. If a contact you already know can’t help you, they may have someone in mind that they can refer you to, who can. As you are put into contact with more people, your list of contacts will grow.
- Create your ‘Elevator Pitch’: When you email or call (your contacts if you feel comfortable), consider your message an elevator pitch (brief and to the point). Your pitch should:
- Include information about why you’re are interested in XYZ position and why you want to get involved in the industry
- Highlight your recent grad status
- Ask if there is a “time we can chat”
- Include your resume
- Follow up: It is important to follow up within 24-48 hours with a phone call. During the phone call, ask if your contact reviewed your resume and what they thought of it. If the professional unfortunately doesn’t have anything they can help you with, it’s okay to be persistent and ask if they know anyone who can. If they do, remember to get their phone number, and add that new person to your list. You should also make a note on your list to thank the person you initially contacted. A quick thank you note not only shows that you appreciate that the professional took time out of their day to talk to you but also will keep you fresh in their mind for future opportunities.
- Navigate job boards/company websites like a pro!
To the untrained eye, job boards and websites can be overwhelming. On job boards, to prevent your resume and cover letter from getting lost in cyber space, pay attention to the ads for jobs that are being displayed – an ad is usually a strong indicator that there is an opportunity available.
Before you send your resume as instructed, whether that is through a job board or through the company website, do some homework on the organization. For instance, doing research might help you learn something about the company that may lead you to add something applicable to your resume. For example, if corporate responsibility is a pillar of the organization’s business model, you can expand upon your community service experience to show how your values align with the firm’s. You should also try to figure out what department you would be interviewing with and who the hiring manager is. You can later use this information after you submit your application to follow-up with the appropriate decision maker(s) and explain what makes you an excellent choice for the role. Don’t forget – if you find the hiring manager, you should add them to your spreadsheet.
- Use LinkedIn
After creating an engaging LinkedIn profile, you will be ready to apply to jobs and forge new connections on LinkedIn. LinkedIn can also give you great access to the hidden job market because it allows you to view company employees and see how you are connected to decision makers. Interested in a specific company? You may have someone in your network who can refer you to the President of HR. To discover the hidden market on LinkedIn, you can:
- Target companies of interest: If you see a job posted, or are interested in exploring opportunities at a specific company, LinkedIn will allow you to view and connect with high-level employees. Once you choose someone to contact, add their information to your spreadsheet and ask to connect with them. Note: When asking to connect with someone, make the effort to replace the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network” message with your elevator pitch. You can also “follow” a company, so you can see all updates – job-related or otherwise – in your feed.
- Reach out to college alumni and relevant interest groups: Most colleges have alumni groups on LinkedIn. Once you have access to the group, you will be able to view all current members, look through jobs posted by members, and start a conversation. Starting a conversation is a great way to find alumni and like-minded professionals willing to help. For example you can say, “Hey all, I am a recent graduate looking for an entry-level position in xyz. If anyone knows of any available opportunities, please contact me at (insert email address). Thank you!” You can do the same thing on relevant interest groups. Think about any honor societies, national social associations, language groups, etc. that you belong to and join their groups on LinkedIn. Remember to add anyone you had contact with to your list!
- Rechurn the list
Whether you find yourself still looking for your first job or looking to explore new employment opportunities later down the road, your ‘Central Administrative Tool’ can help. When reaching out to contacts you have talked to before you can either say, “I reorganized my resume and was wondering if I could resend it to you for some feedback,” or, “I have been working as (insert title) at (insert company). During my time there I have gained experience in x,y, and z, and I have a reached a point where I am ready to take my career to the next level. Do you have any suggestions?”
Finding your first job right out of college is a process that takes patience. As long as you stay organized, network, and most importantly, are persistent, you will be successful. Learning to navigate the hidden job market is a skill that will stay with you for the rest of your life, no matter where your career takes you.