Three Proven Ways to Access the Hidden Job Market

It may be elusive, but if you're smart about it, there are ways you can access and take advantage of the hidden job market.

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If you've ever found yourself frustrated by a lack of interesting job openings or the sheer competition for the positions advertised on online job boards, there might be a reassuring explanation: the opportunities you're looking for are in the "hidden" job market.

Depending on who you ask, the hidden job market may account for between 70% and 90% of positions, so it's not to be taken lightly. Some may claim that the hidden market is a myth, but is discounting the notion a risk you're willing to take with your career?

It may be elusive, but if you're smart about it, there are ways you can access and take advantage of the hidden job market. Here are three of the methods I've found to be the most successful.

1. Use Your Existing Network

Many people massively overcomplicate the process of accessing their available network. Before you consider walking around a conference in a suit and handing out your business card to everyone who makes eye contact with you, think seriously about using the network you have already.

If you think you don't have a network, you're almost certainly wrong — even if you've been out of work for years and don't have any friends. Do you have any family members? Neighbors or acquaintances? Previous employers and colleagues? Nearly everyone can answer one of those questions in the affirmative.

So, make a list of who is in your network and start contacting them. Do it with a nod to establishing a solid relationship that shows you care about them — ask how they're doing first, and bonus points if you can remember a personal anecdote or offer them value based on your last conversation. Then, once the conversation is flowing well, you can mention that you're searching for work.

Don't assume that someone can't help you just because they work in a different industry. You don't know who they know, and this is all about spreading the word as far as possible.

Also, get into the habit of casually bringing up the fact that you're currently looking for a job (be specific about the role and sector) in conversation — even if it's just a chat with a complete stranger. You might think it sounds desperate, but you'll find that most people respect the bravery and hustle needed to carry out this kind of approach. And even if they can't help you now, they might think of you later down the line when an opportunity arises.

Of course, the more you can grow your network, the better your chances are of finding a job.

2. Join Relevant Associations or Groups

If you've tried spreading the word about your ongoing job search to everyone you know and it's not yielding any results, it might be time to expand your network. The easiest and most effective way to do that is by joining relevant groups or associations.

One of the most effective options is your college's alumni network, which likely sends out newsletters with relevant opportunities for its alumni and organizes meetups and conferences. If you're not on the mailing list already, head straight to your alma mater's website and find out what you've been missing.

In some cases, you might even be able to join an employer alumni association, which is a group specifically for college alumni who worked for a particular company. These only tend to spring up if a college and firm have a strong relationship. But if you find out there is one for your college, it's a strong signal that this company might be more likely to consider you.

Not a college graduate? There are still relevant groups you can join. Try looking for professional networking groups on LinkedIn and/or Facebook that are tailored to your city. You can also consider national or regional professional associations and societies.

3. Keep Tabs on Companies of Interest

Do you know the kinds of companies or organizations you'd like to work with? Are you keeping up with their activities online? If your answer to the first question is yes and your answer to the second question is no, you're missing out.

You never know where the next opportunity will come from. There are examples of people who have been directly approached by hiring managers or CEOs after doing something as simple as following a company on LinkedIn or replying to a tweet.

So, make sure you follow the company on social media sites, subscribe to any newsletters and possibly even follow the hiring manager on LinkedIn. If they post or send out something of interest, you'll have the perfect opportunity to respond.

But if you do take this approach, make sure your social media profiles are up to scratch. If your bio makes it obvious who you are and what your skill set is, you can maximize the chances of someone out there realizing you're the perfect fit for a certain company or position.

Next Step: Get Hired

Some people might decide to put all three of the tips above into practice, others would prefer to double down on a single aspect, and others still might be so driven that they'll want to look for even more strategies. Whatever works best for you, don't sit back and decide to just stick to the standard job boards.

Thinking outside the box might seem hopeless at first, but once you've sown a few seeds, results can spring up from the unlikeliest places. Why wouldn't you start that process today?

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