Do you, like most people, still just apply for advertised vacancies and register with recruitment consultancies when you're looking for a new job? Did you know it's estimated that as many as 70% of jobs are not advertised? That's why it makes much more sense to be creative in your job search, and to try and unlock these unadvertised openings. You can take two main approaches to finding unadvertised vacancies. You can either make a specific application – where success will depend on how well targeted your application is. Or you can use your networks to find out about possible openings.
What is networking?
Many people dislike the idea of networking and feel uncomfortable about it. They worry that it's all about going to networking events and having a heap of business cards thrrust at them. The truth is that networking covers much more than this. All of us already network at an unconscious level when we ask friends, family or collections to recommend garages, hairdressers and decorators. Networking simply means making links from people we know to people they know. Your current network will probably be made up of contacts from a whole range of different groups – family, friends, current and past work collections, clients, clubs and voluntary organizations. The list goes on.
Brainstorm it all
To get things underway, write down all your current contacts. A good way to approach this is to put your name in a circle on a sheet of paper, and then other circles around it – with all the different groups that you're a member of and the names of the people you refer to these. You'll probably be amazed at the number of people you know. Most people have at least 50 contacts in their network. Remember also that each of your contacts probably has around 50 contacts of their own. This increases the range of your network even more.
Making your network work
It's probably not a good idea to just tell everyone that you're looking for a new job. That smacks of desperation. The trick is to be aware of how the people you already know can help you to move into your chosen field. Your aim should be meet qualified people in a specific industry, or area of career focus, to find out more about what they do. Your initial networking goal should be to get information and referrals, rather than a job. Identify the people you know who might be most useful for finding out more about the new position, industry sector or company you would like to work for. Arrange meetings with them if possible. The easiest way to approach this is to ask contacts who have leads for you to send an email or call the relevant person before you get in touch. When you call, briefly outline the reason why you'd like to meet. Ask for a short face to face meeting which will take no longer than 20 minutes. Always bear in mind that networking should not just be a one way experience. Look to help others as well.
Structuring information interviews
During your discussion, ask key questions about the role, industry or company. Find out what the person you're speaking to enjoys most about these areas, what future changes there are likely to be and the best way to get into various roles. Ask for the names of other people who may be able to help with your research. Do not ask any questions that are directly about your job search – for example, wherever there are any vacancies at the moment. Do not take a copy of your CV. If a post is mentioned and the discussion seems to be changing into a job interview, then ask to come back at a later date for a proper interview.
Keep records of all your discussions and follow up on any additional contacts. Send a short letter or email thanking the person you spoke to for their time. If you repeat this exercise, your range of contacts in your chosen industry will increase significantly. So will your chances of finding out about job opportunities before they ever get advertised.
In this way you can make networking a key part of your job search strategy.