Dear Matt: I'm going to graduate from college soon and have already started searching for jobs. I'll admit I'm not sure if I am doing it right. I hear about this "hidden job market". What is it, and can college graduates like me use it to get a job?
Matt says: The job search as we've known it has changed, says Ron McGowan, author of the book "How to Find Work In the 21st Century" (howtofindwork.ca). Employers are tired of traditional hiring methods that are not providing the candidates they seek, and that's why today's college graduates need to completely rethink how they search, find and apply for jobs, says McGowan.
"Today's employment seeker must be more entrepreneurial and enterprising in his or her search for work than previous generations, and needs to be better at selling themselves," says McGowan.
So what is this hidden job market?
It's the informal dialogue that's going on between the "players" and "influencers" in any given industry, says McGowan. This is where the real networking takes place — where people learn about new projects, potential job openings, and what business struggles and needs a company faces. This dialogue takes place formally and informally through business meetings, networking events, industry meet-ups, over coffee, at a happy hour or simply during casual e-mail exchanges.
Finding the hidden job market goes back to what I've preached in this column from day one: Networking is key to finding a job, even if you are a soon-to-be college graduate.
"Some of these associations let students join them — so sign up, attend their meetings and meet some of the players and get involved with the association," says McGowan.
Look for industry news about big contracts that companies have landed. Follow social media and monitor company websites for information that could lead to job openings. If you've already made contact with an industry professional at one of these companies, you already have an inside contact who can help you.
Most of all, McGowan stresses, don't be afraid to think outside the box. Look for new ways to promote and market your skills and how they can help a company. That's why, McGowan says, college graduates and other job seekers "like it or not … need to face the reality of today's workplace and be willing to accept temporary or contract work without reservations. That doesn't mean they have to give up looking for a job. It means recognizing how the workplace has changed and understanding that the path to a traditional job today is often via the temporary or contract work route."
Finding the hidden job market can be done, even by college grads. That's how job seekers find opportunities that are never advertised.
Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.