This piece was written for Class of 2018 Month by Alex Proctor, a Careers Adviser at the University of Leeds Careers Centre.
“It’s not what you know, but who you know.” It’s a common phrase; a cliché even, but it’s one all graduates should bear in mind when undertaking their job search. The importance of contacts in any industry shouldn’t be understated, because the ‘hidden job market’ does exist.
My success story
I was fortunate enough to benefit from the hidden job market when trying to break into the world of Careers Advice and Guidance. While on a placement within the sector, I put time into developing professional relationships with two senior managers outside of my team. As a result, they went on to offer me a further unadvertised role.
Admittedly I wasn’t an expert for this particular job, and needed a lot of training to undertake the day-to-day responsibilities, but by demonstrating my networking abilities, enthusiasm for the sector and transferable skills, I managed to crack the hidden job market. Without working on my professional contacts, I might not have been fortunate enough to gain this experience, which I am still developing in my role at present.
Tips for the ‘hidden job market’
- Plan well. The process of trying to break into the market is not a quick one – it can take a while to network. Therefore, preparation and research around the role you want and about the company you hope to work for is key.
- Social media is important. Make effective use of Twitter to follow companies; tweet about relevant updates or latest news in the sector you hope to work in, or even compile blog posts about any news or sector updates and share these on your social media channels.
- Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to network and share your knowledge with others. Showing you can keep up-to-date with the latest developments in your sector is absolutely crucial while trying for an unadvertised role, and shows that you still have the relevant knowledge to hit the ground running.
- Tailor your networking. A crucial element of searching in the ‘hidden job market’ is differentiating your style of networking online and in person. When you try to network online via various social media channels, it’s useful to identify who key individuals are in a particular organisation. If you use LinkedIn, you can visit company LinkedIn pages to find the most relevant individuals to network with.
Getting out there
Don’t be afraid to message potential contacts – lead by explaining what you are looking for career-wise, but most importantly, detail the transferable skills, knowledge and experience you have developed from your studies and relevant work experience (placements, internships, work experience, part-time work, volunteering) that you can bring to your desired role.
Alternatively, if there’s a chance to network in person, go for it! Usually career fairs, employer-led talks (frequently advertised on the events section of MyCareer), and company open days are prime opportunities to network. When meeting with a potential employer remember to be prepared to almost the same standard as you would be if emailing them. Creating a positive image is crucial: whether in person or online, being courteous is very important, so be mindful of taking compromises if you’re offered an opportunity – it may not be exactly what you want at first, but if it helps you take the next step in your career, it will eventually pay off!
For any potential graduate seeking their next steps after graduation, the power of the hidden job market is not to be underestimated. It makes sense for a potential employer to scout potential using their contacts, as it saves both time and money. The ultimate key is to make yourself approachable and available. The more recognised you become, and the wider you cast your job-search, the better your chances of finally cracking the ‘elusive’ hidden job market!