Anyone who has ever gone through the process knows that looking for a new job can be a frustrating, dispiriting, and painful experience.
Like root canal painful.
I know this because I’ve experienced several extended periods of unemployment in my life. I also speak with countless people each year who are going through difficult job searches.
People are frustrated by the whole job search process, which seems mysterious and opaque. Their number one complaint? Sending out dozens of applications and rarely getting any response–even a rejection notice–from employers.
I get it. It’s like the cover letter and resume that you worked so hard on, are simply disappearing into a black hole. And when you’re already feeling unsure of yourself, the abject silence from employers only makes things worse.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
There’s a better, more productive way to find meaningful work. But you’ve got to fundamentally change how you approach your job search.
The self-defeating job search cycle
Yes… the “system” is bad. But you may be making things harder than they need to be.
Too many people looking for work follow the same self-defeating pattern in their search.
They spend the first few months almost exclusively looking for jobs online. They may be selective in the positions for which they apply; but in general, they approach employers “cold,” without knowing anyone inside the organization.
The response rate for such applications is, of course, very low. Just two percent!
Unfortunately, when job seekers don’t get results they want, many of them double down on the exact same approach. They turn their search into a numbers game; they become less selective and start applying to jobs, regardless of their interest or fit. Predictably, this only leads to more rejection.
When you do this, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s a vicious cycle that takes a lot of energy and creates a lot of upset.
The central mistake in here is relying, almost entirely, on job boards to find new work opportunities.
I own one of the largest and most successful regional job boards in the country. I know that sites like mine are helpful in finding work–particularly in niche industries and targeted markets. But when job boards are your only job search tool, you’re severely limiting your chances of finding work.
Something like 80 percent of all jobs are never get advertised–on the Mac’s List job board or anywhere else. Instead, employers fill many positions through networking, professional referrals, and word-of-mouth. This is what experts call the “hidden job market” and it’s often where you’ll find the best paying, most rewarding work opportunities.
To optimize your chance of finding a job–and one you’ll actually enjoy–you’ve got to tap into the hidden job market. Not only will you discover great jobs you never even knew existed, but you’ll also have a leg up on opportunities you do find posted online.
The Hidden Job Market is based on relationships
So how do you access the hidden job market in your town? It’s simple–start building professional relationships.
Ask any hiring manager or HR professional and they’ll tell you this simple truth: employers hire people they know and people who are referred by trusted professional contacts.
The statistics back this up. The job seeker who applies through a referral is 14 times more likely to be hired than the one who applies cold.
This isn’t a conspiracy. It’s just basic human nature. It’s just easier and safer for employers to hire people with whom they already have some connection.
It also isn’t nepotism among some exclusive club. Anyone (ANYONE!) can get plugged into the hidden job market.
You don’t need to be a scion of industry, an heiress, or the boss’ son-in-law. You don’t even need to have a particularly strong relationship with prospective hiring managers. Even second- or third-degree connections give you a huge advantage in your job search.
You only need to get out there and start meeting professionals in your chosen field. Meet with people. Share your skills, experience, and passion. The more you do these things, the more you become a known and trusted professional within your community.
Here’s what that means in practice:
- Attend networking events: There’s no easier way to connect with other professionals (and prospective employers) in your field. Meet a dozen or more quality contacts in an hour!
- Do informational interviews: Connect and learn from influencers in your field of interest. You can uncover huge opportunities in just a 20-30 minute meeting.
- Volunteer: There’s no better way to showcase your passion and skills. Find a volunteer opportunity that allows you to utilize your professional abilities. You shouldn’t expect to get a job from the organization you’re volunteering with, but your value will be on full display to influencers in your community.
Each of these activities will grow and strengthen your professional network. You’ll be among the first to know about new job openings and become a go-to referral for relevant work opportunities.
Remember… eight out of 10 jobs are filled through professional networks. If you’re not constantly building your network, you’re missing out on 80 percent of all the jobs out there!
Why you’re not using relationships to find a job
When I share this information with job seekers, I often get one of three responses. I’ll share these with you, along with my typical rebuttal.
“This isn’t fair. It’s not meritocratic.”
I empathize with this sentiment. It’s true that a well-connected candidate is often better positioned than one who is perfectly qualified. But these two qualities are not mutually exclusive. In today’s job market, you need to be both connected and qualified, otherwise, you’re just another anonymous resume.
“I’m too shy to network. Networking is only for extroverts.”
This is 100% not true. Networking is a learned skill–just like riding a bike or learning a new language. There are some basic rules and it takes practice, but anyone can become a good networker.
I know this because I was not a born networker. In fact, I was painfully shy until my mid-20s, when I learned strategies to excel in professional networking. (Believe it or not, I now LOVE to get out there and meet new people.)
“I don’t have time to do what you’re talking about.”
Again, I understand this feeling. We’ve all got busy lives! But there are plenty of ways to integrate professional networking into your existing schedule.
Here’s just one example. Almost all professionals have some time off for lunch, but many times we end up eating alone our desk. Why not use this time to build a professional relationship over some sushi?
More fundamentally, consider this…
The average job search takes around six months–and searches generally take longer as you progress through your career.
One reason they take so long is because people are stuck in the self-defeating job search process I described above. They only look for jobs online and then struggle to pigeonhole their resumes into any position of interest.
Simply put: they rely on one of the least effective methods of finding a job!
Building up your professional network significantly shortens the length of your job search. You’ll uncover more job opportunities that align with your real interests and you’ll have an inside referral that gives you an inside edge in the application process.
If time is an important factor for you, plugging into the hidden job market is the fastest and most-reliable way to find a job you’ll love.