How to Succeed in the Hidden Job Market

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With research showing that an estimated 80% of jobs are “hidden” and only 20% are advertised, what does that mean for the average hopeful job seeker?

I believe it means there is a wealth of opportunity waiting to be mined. I’d love to share a story that is close to my heart about someone who engaged with the hidden job market and created a magnificent job opportunity.

My client Justin is currently in the throws of ecstasy about a job offer with a company he tells me he has fallen in love with and who have fallen in love with him. Watching from the sidelines has been fascinating and getting caught up in his enthusiasm, I can appreciate why Justin is likening the feelings to those of falling in love. So let’s talk about what happened and what led to this attraction.

Three months ago Justin came to see me because he was at a career and life crossroads. His love affair with his current employer had timed out and he had lots of ideas and plans running through his mind that never went anywhere and just left him feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.

When I suggested he tap into the hidden market to develop opportunities he was open and eager to try something different. The journey into the hidden market began with Justin defining his key career achievements, values, life and career vision and with that a bigger dream began to emerge. A compelling dream that was linked to a clear sense of purpose for what he wanted to do and contribute through his life. This coalesced into his value proposition to the job market; something he could articulate with conviction and confidence about where he was heading, what he offered, what companies would gain from hiring him and why that mattered.

Justin then listed the criteria by which he would be attracted to companies and why they would be attracted to him. He quickly grasped there was no point wasting time with an endless list of target companies so he narrowed his focus only to those matching his criteria.

Cold calling companies was definitely not his thing so he asked friends and professional network contacts to introduce him to people who either worked at or knew someone who worked at his target companies. Social media sites such as make it easy to see who knows who. Wracking his brain, Justin remembered that during an industry lunch last year he’d met someone who worked at one his target companies. Although he didn’t know this person very well – let’s call him Sean – Justin called to renew the contact, asked for a meeting saying he would value Sean’s view of some industry trends and to know more about Sean’s organisation. This led to an invitation to chat over coffee the next week.

If this is sounding easy so far, that’s because it was. With the right preparation and the right intention to create win/win outcomes with his target companies Justin had some of the best resources for increasing success.

Justin was available but not desperate. He approached Sean with the intention of getting to know him first, finding out more, contributing ideas and industry information he thought Sean’s company  might be interested to know. What Justin didn’t know at this first meeting was that Sean had been thinking for some time that his company should expand into a new area but they didn’t have the internal expertise to actualise that idea. At the second meeting Sean started to reveal more about his company’s vision for expansion. Justin began to embed himself into that vision by sharing some relevant achievement stories and going on to speak more about his key motivations, interests and values.

When Justin and I debriefed that second meeting we concluded that both he and Sean had given each other strong signals of attraction and showed interest in progressing discussions. At no point had Justin asked for a job and yet a job opportunity was starting to emerge. Once things moved into the “attraction” phase, the conversations became higher level and strategic in terms of what Sean’s company needed and how Justin could meet that need. It was clear that no-one else was in the running for this role and after a series of meetings with other stakeholders within the business, Justin was asked to provide input into the position description for the brand new role as head of the new division! I asked Justin, “Does it get any better than this when you get to write your own position description, in a company of your choice with no competition and working with people who had eyes only for you?” He was happy to acknowledge this was a huge win/win for everyone!

In Summary

Taking control of your job search project and being willing to create your own opportunities rather than passively wait for opportunities to emerge, leads to job offers that were previously “hidden”.

Have a strategy, know what you offer and what you are seeking and link the two to come up with a target market that meets your criteria.

Be willing to build relationships and go on a journey even when you can’t immediately see a logical outcome. The power of relationships and the chemistry you create over a number of conversations cannot be underestimated. It is a given that you also need to have the required job competencies,  however, chemistry has people feeling they want to work with you which is a compelling reason for them not considering other players.

Networking delivers outcomes based on a stronger mutual fit because all parties have engaged in a process that allows them exposure to each other over time and without pressure.

Create win/win outcomes at every touch point through the journey including giving back where possible.

Adopt the belief that people will be interested to talk to you rather than focusing on reasons they won’t. Create a positive mindset that focuses on success rather than rejection and truly believe that you create value for an employer.

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