Loveteamin/Wikimedia
Source: Loveteamin/Wikimedia

Clients ask me all the time, "How do I tap into the hidden job market?"

In other words, aside from the usual job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn, where do people find job openings? The fact is, even though the majority of job seekers utilize the internet as a job search resource, the majority of job seekers do not land jobs by submitting electronic applications through the prominent online job sites. Below are 10 alternative strategies. If you know others, please feel welcome to contribute in the comments section.

1. Reach out to your full network of people. People want to help you and see you succeed. It makes us all feel good to help others, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there and ask for help.

Make a list of everyone you know whom you can somehow contact: friends, friends of friends, family, former colleagues, former classmates, and so on. Determine the best way to chat with each of these people. Email? Phone? Happy hour? Even if they don't know of a job opening they might be able to help make a connection at a company you're interested in. Just make sure your resume is polished and you're available to pursue leads that arise on short notice. This strategy takes work but it can bring unexpected and wonderful results, so be ready to pounce on opportunities. That's why it's #1 on my list.

My one rule is: pay it forward. Offer to help the people who have helped you and always be of service to others in need. 

2. If you hate networking and it feels like a barrier to your job search, read this great article in Harvard Business Review: "Don't Waste Your Time on Networking Events"

3. Follow the companies that intrigue you. Perhaps it's that hot new startup mentioned in the news. Or maybe you know a guy who knows a guy who's allowed to take his dog to work. Follow those companies on social media- especially Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It's more and more common for new and small companies to post their openings on social media. It costs less, it reaches their target audience, and it gives them control of taking down the posting as soon as they have enough applications or the position is filled. Plus, if you interact with them on social media, they might just take notice.

4. So you've been following those intriguing companies for awhile and they're not posting any jobs. Now what? Send them your resume or portfolio anyway. Or call the company and ask for an informational interview. If the company is involved in community events, get out there and be seen by the right people. Pull yourself out of the passive rut of feeling limited by whatever arises in the job boards. Prove your passion and make a case for yourself. Sometimes that means breaking with tradition and getting creative to get yourself noticed.

 
5. Tailor your LinkedIn profile to be recruiter and job match friendly. This helps the jobs find you. Make sure your professional summary and job descriptions represent the scope of your expertise using smart keywords. The profile can be written in a way that opens the door to your next career move. Recruiters should feel like you're a natural fit for the position they're trying to fill. Don't forget to click on the "Jobs" tab and then "Preferences" to enable the option that lets recruiters view your profile. By perfecting your profile, LinkedIn also becomes better at recommending jobs that seem to be a good fit. 

 6. Join industry groups and professional memberships that give you access to in-house curated job boards and classified ads. In many cases the general public doesn't have access to these openings, so they are likely to be more relevant and they take less time to peruse. 

7. Join LinkedIn groups where people are having industry or community discussions. Build trust and visibility in the groups, ask for what you need, and offer what you can.

I once posted in a LinkedIn group that I was looking for an office space to rent in my community. The next day the director of a counseling center responded to my request saying, "Rather than renting an office, how about you come work for my organization? You'll get your own office plus benefits." I never expected to get a job offer, but you just never know what happens when you put yourself out there.

8. If you don't feel well connected, connect with others who are. Think outside the box to find those people and places in your community that can connect you with people of influence. For example, stop by your local chamber of commerce and explain what you're looking for. Ask them if they have ideas for meeting other professionals. Visit places where business is booming and ideas are being generated such as business incubators and communal workspaces. Get to know your community's downtown development coordinators, real estate agents, professors, doctors, or anybody else who might have a large network.

9. Join your alma mater's alumni association and call them. Get acquainted with all their services, which usually include career assistance. In my experience the members of alumni associations are passionate about their school and their professions and are eager to help.

10. Keep in mind that temp, freelance, part-time, and contractual positions can and often do end up turning into something permanent. If you're seeking a full-time position but the company you're interested in is currently hiring part-time, it can't hurt to apply and get your foot in the door. Ask about opportunities for growth within the organization. There are many hiring sites dedicated to the "gig" economy and these too might lead to something more.

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More Career Articles by Brad Waters:

Brad works nationwide with non-traditional career seekers, freelancers, creatives, introverts, Millennials, and corporate career changers. He helps people clarify their career direction and take action on career-life transitions. Request a free consultation call at BradWatersCoaching.com

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About the Author

Brad Waters

Brad Waters, MSW, is a career and personal development expert based in Los Angeles. He is also a freelance writer with a background in social work and holistic health care.

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