The purpose of this piece is to share some starting points to consider aside from using job boards, to help you find the job you want.
It’s widely stated that 80% of jobs are never advertised, so if you’re predominantly spending your job search in front of a screen scrolling through job boards, you need to make some changes to your search strategy.
It’s certainly important to have an online presence and include LinkedIn and job boards as part of your job hunting activities – to not do so is missing an opportunity to be found by recruiters using CV mining and keyword searches. However, relying on this approach alone could significantly prolong your job hunt.
The word ‘networking’ often provokes a negative response from people as images spring to mind of awkward conversations at networking events with complete strangers. Networking is about connecting with people. That’s something we do every single day, regardless of what stage of life we’re in. Think about the friends you made at school, university or within work, the teachers and managers you formed a bond with, events and meetings you’ve attended in which you got chatting with someone new… these are all examples of connections. The label ‘networking’ simply puts a professional stamp on that connection building.
The value of having a professional network is in the opportunities it may offer down the road, even if you can’t anticipate what those might be just yet. A huge reason why 80% of jobs aren’t advertised is because employers often prefer to fill their roles internally, meaning they hire someone already working within the organisation, or, more importantly because employers depend on referrals. Referrals significantly lower hiring managers’ level of risk.
Think about it within another context: if you decide that you need to see a physiotherapist for treatment, you might do some of your own research to find someone suitable, and you may also mention to your friend that you’re on the lookout. When your friend then gives you a recommendation of a physio they’ve personally worked with, and your only other option is one you found online but who you have no connection to, which one are you more likely to book an appointment with?
Hiring managers use the same logic. They’re far more likely to get someone in for an interview who’s been recommended to them by a trustworthy source, compared to someone who applied for the job by traditional means, without any existing links to the company. In some cases, the person who’s been referred may not be as qualified as other candidates.
So with all that in mind, it’s worth investing time in building up and engaging with your network. LinkedIn is a fantastic online resource to do just that. You can use the search bar to enter keywords relating to a job you’re particularly interested in, and find people working within that field to connect with. Follow companies you’re particularly interested in, join groups that relate to the areas you’d like to pursue, and add contacts who you’ve met at those meetings and events (always include a customised note with an anecdote to show that you remember them). Engage with your connections’ posts by liking, commenting and sharing their content – make it easy for them to remember you.
Offline you could commit to attending a monthly Meetup to expand your network, join a professional membership body for your industry and attend their workshops, or find out what local events are happening that you could use as an opportunity to meet new people. Those local events could include careers fairs, meaning you can have actual conversations with recruiters representing different employers to find out what they’re looking for in their next hires.
When you get chatting to someone in your network, the easiest way of managing the conversation is by showing an interest in them and listening carefully to what they have to say. If they’re working on a particular project, experiencing a problem or want to hire someone, you might be able to volunteer yourself or someone you know to help out. Even if you don’t meet their needs or vice versa right now, you can’t predict where your or their career might end up one day – that connection may come in handy further down the road.
Be clear on what you want to do next. If you don’t have that vision mapped out, how can you succinctly present yourself to new contacts about what you’re working towards? How do you know what sort of jobs to apply for, or which specialist job boards to use in that search? And when you complete an application or write a cover letter for a job, how will you be able to convey why you’re the best fit for that role if you’re not sure why you’re applying for it in the first place?
A crucial point to make is that what you want to do next doesn’t have to be what you want to do for the rest of your working life. It’s what will occupy you for the next 1-3 years. So take the pressure off yourself.
And if you’re thinking strategically, your next job might be an opportunity to develop a particular skill you need, so that longer term you can more easily transition into a new career which you have you sights set on.
To help filter down your next job options, spend time working out and defining your career must-haves. These are typically three or four things which are critical to you within your work – be that related to the job itself, the environment you work in or industry you’re a part of. They’re requirements which you can’t negotiate on, regardless of what opportunity comes your way.
These career must-haves are likely to change over time as you become more experienced or uncover different priorities, so it’s a useful exercise to come back to every year.